? r. rd
Treasures of Jamaican Heritage
The Delgado Tankard
This exquisitely designed silver tankard was given to Moses Delgado in 1831 by members of the Jamaican
Jewish community as a mark of their appreciation for his role in securing full political rights for Jews in
the island. The tankard is now kept at the Jewish synagogue.
The tankard was made by Bateman's, leading English silversmiths, and valued one hundred guineas. It bears
the following inscription:
BY A RESOLUTION UNANIMOUSLY ENTERED INTO
at a meeting of the Gentlemen of the Hebrew
Persuasion holden in the City of Kingston in the
Island on the 12th of December 1831 THIS CUP WAS
DIRECTED TO BE PROCURED AND PRESENTED TO MOSES DELGADO ESQUIRE
as a grateful testimony of the sense entertained by them of his manly and indefatigable
zeal and honorable exertions in the support of the rights and
privileges which they have now the happiness to enjoy
in common with ALL HIS BRITANNIC MAJESTYS SUBJECTS
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Index: Articles appearing in Jamaica
Journal are abstracted and indexed in
Historical Abstracts and America: History
Vol. 19 No. 4 Copyright 0 1986 by
Institute of Jamaica Publications Limited.
Cover or contents may not be reproduced in
whole or in part without written permission.
COVER: Thatchers on a roof practise an
ancient craft in danger of disappearing. Archi-
tect Ann Hodges records examples and tech-
niques in words and pictures beginning on
QUARTERLY OF THE INSTITUTE OF JAMAICA
Vol. 19 No. 4
November 1986 January 1987
HISTORY AND LIFE
11 AARON MATALON INTERVIEWED BY MARTIN MORDECAI
27 THATCH: JAMAICAN TRADITIONAL BUILDING MATERIALS
AND TECHNIQUES. .. 1
by Ann Hodges
2 CHANTING DOWN BABYLON:
by Carolyn Cooper
BOB MARLEY'S SONG AS
19 IMAGES IN SERIES: ASPECTS OF CONTEMPORARY
39 ANANSI AND ANDREW SALKEY
by Mervyn Morris
45 THE FICTION OF ANDREW SALKEY
by Peter Nazareth
57 ART: MIDSUMMER DELIGHTS AND ORDEALS
by Gloria Escoffery
64 NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS
Chanting Down Babylon
Bob Marleys Song as Literary Text
By Carolyn Cooper
Critical evaluation of Bob Marley's
song as literary text raises substan-
tive questions about the nature of
the reggae songwriter's art, within the
oral/scribal literary continuum in Jam-
aica: Does verbal creativity spon-
taneously divide into discrete categor-
ies, orature and literature? Or are there
essential literary qualities inherent in
both oral and scribal modes of com-
position and transmission?
Popular song as oral performance
is clearly rooted in the broad tradition
of Jamaican verbal folk arts. Indeed,
artificial transmission of the reggae
songwriter's lyrics as transcript, funda-
mentally transposes the text.1 Yet, re-
flective evaluation of the words fixed on
the page does allow distinctive pleasures.
Overtones of meaning reverberate. The
strength of Bob Marley's lyrics is that
the words, detached from the emo-
tive musical context in which the songs
are most fully realized, retain a com-
pelling, allusive authority.
Marley's skilful verbal play his use
of biblical allusion, Rastafarian symbol-
ism, proverb, riddle, aphorism and meta-
phor is evidence of a highly charged
literary sensibility. His words require
the careful critical attention ordinarily
accorded verbal performances in the
written medium. This evaluation of
Marley's lyrics is based on eight al-
bums produced over the ten-year period
1973-83. These are Burnin' (1973),
Natty Dread (1974), Rastaman Vi-
bration (1975), Exodus (1977), Kaya
(1978), Survival (1979), Uprising,
(1980) and the posthumous Confron-
The Oral Mode
Marley began writing and recording
songs long before the 1972 release of
Catch a Fire, the Wailers' first album, as
distinct from a collection of individual
hits. His first recording "Judge Not",
was released a decade earlier. But, it was
with the rise and fall of the original
Wailers triumvirate that Bob Marley's
distinctive talents unquestionably emerg-
ed.2 Further, the very nature of that
early Wailers conjunction makes it diffi-
cult to ascribe authorship to several of
the songs released by the group before
1972. Stephen Davis, one of Marley's
biographers, describes the collaborative
improvisation of early Wailers' lyrics
thus, underscoring the role of Lee Perry
- alias Little, Scratch, Upsetter the
Wailers' producer and co-writer:
While Bob strummed and brooded,
Perry would croak out catch-phrases
and doggerel, trying to find the right
lyrics to match the spluttering, bum-
pity Afro-style percussion tracks that
the Barretts were experimenting with.
Perry . was . a witty and imagin-
ative lyricist who contributed im-
measurably to the great records the
Wailers made with him. As to who
actually wrote the songs (Bob or
Scratch Peter's and Bunny's songs
are unmistakably their own), con-
fusion still reigns . . Most likely,
they were written by both men and
the band, improvising in the studio.
[Davis 1984 pp. 118-191.
An excellent example of the verbal
spontaneity of group improvisation is
evident in the shaping of the lyrics of
the Wailers' classic, "Small Axe", attri-
buted to Marley. Recounting a tale that
may very well be apocryphal, Stephen
Davis notes [pp. 120-21] :
When the Wailers originally merged
with Lee Perry, Upsetter Records was
facing competition from the 'big three'
studios in Kingston Federal, Studio
One, and Dynamic. One day Bob and
Peter and Scratch were playing with
lyrics at the Upsetter shop and Scratch
was complaining about the 'big t'ree'.
Brash and boasty as usual, Tosh spoke
up: 'If dem is the big t'ree, we am (sic)
the small axel' And one of the canniest
double-entendres in reggae music was
Tosh's spontaneous verbal wit illus-
trates how artistry in oral composition
functions as in the written tradition.
The literariness of an utterance is depen-
dent on the particular skill of an indivi-
dual talent, shaping communally shared
verbal techniques. Double-entendre,
metaphor, proverb and riddle, character-
istic elements of everyday oral dis-
course in Jamaica, constitute the height-
ened language of orature.
In another account of the genesis of
the song "Small Axe", Sebastian Clarke
notes in Jah Music [1980 p. 55] that:
Psalm 52 was used by Bob Marley to
create 'Small Axe'. The Psalm opened
with: 'Why boastest thou thyself in
mischief, O mighty man? The good-
ness of God endureth continually.'
Marley changed or scrambled the
words around to say, 'Why boastest
thy self, O evil man? The goodness
of Jah endureth for Iver.' The song
was also strengthened by the inclu-
sion of bits of Ecclesiastes 10: 'He that
diggeth a pit shall fall into it.' Marley's
slightly changed lyrics say,'And whoso-
ever diggeth a pit shall fall in it.'
The inter-related issues of individual
authorship, originality and influence,
raised in these complementary accounts
of the evolution of "Small Axe", are
central to an understanding of oral for-
mulaic thought and expression as em-
ployed by Bob Marley.
Walter Ong, in Orality and Literacy,
Poets, as idealized by chirographic cul-
tures and even more by typographic cul-
tures, were not expected to use prefab-
ricated materials. If a poet did echo bits
of earlier poems, he was expected to
modulate these into his own 'kind of
thing.' [1982 p. 21] .
By contrast, the art of the oral poet
is essentially formulaic. According to
. formulaic style marks not poetry
alone, but more or less, all thought and
expression in primary oral culture.
Early written poetry everywhere, it
seems, is at first necessarily a mimicking
in script of oral performance. The
mind has initially no properly chiro-
graphic resources. You scratch out on a
surface words you imagine yourself
saying aloud in some realizable oral
setting. Only very gradually does writ-
ing become composition in writing,
a kind of discourse poetic or other-
wise that is put together without a
feeling that the one writing is actually
speaking aloud. [p.26] .
Ong's formulation, 'a mimicking in
script of oral performance', is a useful
way to conceptualize the transformation
of the performed song into transcript.
The metaphor of mimicry also approxi-
mates the symbiotic process of oral/
scribal composition, whereby literate
artists create and perform within an
oral mode. The emphatic voice of Louise
Bennett's creole-speaking personae; the
reggae-rhythmic chant of the 'dub' poet;
the inscrutable art of the D.J.; the ubi-
quitous song of the reggae musician,
together constitute an oral perform-
ance continuum in which the voice, in
dialogue with an audience, is of primary
The Fall of Babylon
The message of these contemporary
oral poets is often a 'drumbeat ... play-
ing a rhythm/resisting against the sys-
tem',4 to quote Bob Marley. Erna Brod-
ber and J.E. Greene in their 1979 study,
"Reggae and Cultural Identity in Jam-
aica", conclude that:
The transmitters of reggae . .are by
and large committed to a belief struc-
ture, Rastafarianism, whose roots are
in Africa, in Jah, Haile Selassie, the
Emperor of Ethiopia. The themes of
their messages are rooted in their des-
pair of dispossession, their hope is in
an African or diasporan solution. As a
result, their messages emerge as an
ideology of social change. [p.26] .
The central ideological concern of
Bob Marley's songs is indeed radical
social change. The existing social order,
metaphorically expressed in Rastafarian
iconography as Babylon, the whore, the
fallen woman of St. John's Revelation,
must be chanted down.
Bob Marley's chant against Baby-
lon is both medium and message. For
Babylon, the oppressive State, the for-
mal social and political institutions of
Anglo/American imperialism, is bolster-
ed by the authority of the written word,
articulate in English. 'Head-decay-shun',
the punning, dread inversion of the
English word 'education', is antitheti-
cal to the cultural practices of Rasta-
farians, whose chant against Babylon
has biblical resonances of the fall of
Jericho. The power of the spoken word
is emotively affirmed in the distinct-
ive language of the Rastafarian. Malika
Lee Whitney notes in Bob Marley: Reg-
gae King of the World that:
The Rastafari way of speaking or
"reasoning" is not illiteracy as some
would have you believe, but the tailor-
ing of the European language for more
identifiable self-expression and modi-
fication of it to highlight the positive.
Changes in vocabulary and syntax are
also a conscious act of protest against
the established mores of "Babylon."
(Whitney and Hussey 1984 p. 115. See
also Pollard 1980 pp.32-41] .
References to Babylon recur through-
out the Marley collection. In the tradi-
tional "Rasta Man Chant", from the
Burnin' album, for example: 'I hear the
words of the Rasta Man say/ Babylon
you throne gone down, gone down/
Babylon you throne gone down' In
"Revolution", from the Natty Dread al-
bum, though there is no explicit refer-
ence to Babylon, the apocalyptic im-
agery of imminent collapse graphically
suggests the fall of Babylon and the im-
plosion of the political system:
Revelation, reveals the truth
It takes a revolution to make a
Never make a politician grant you
They will always want to control
So if a fire make it bu'n
And if a blood make it run.
Rasta there on top, can't you see.
We got lightning, thunder,
In "Crazy Baldhead", from the Rasta-
man Vibration album, the theme of
revolution is amplified. The social insti-
tutions of Babylon the inter-related
religious, educational and penal systems
are perceived as dysfunctional. 'Brain-
wash education' must be subverted and
the con-man/crazy baldhead put to
Build your penitentiary
We build your schools
To make us the fools.
Hateraged you reward for our love
Telling us of your God above.
We gonna chase those crazy
Chase those crazy bunkheads
Chase those crazy baldheads
Out of town.
Here comes the con-man
Coming with his con-plan
We won't take no bribe
We got to stay alive.
In the title track from the Exodus
album, the metaphysical flight from
Babylon to Ethiopia, the Black man's
mythological home, is powerfully evok-
Open your eyes and look within.
Are you satisfied with the life
We know where we're going
We know where we're from.
We're leaving Babylon
We're going to our father's land.
Movement of Jah people.
In "Time Will Tell", from the Kaya
album in which Marley appears to move
away from the militant social and poli-
tical preoccupations of the earlier songs,
there is an anxious affirmation of the
moral righteousness of dread: 'Jah would
never give the power to a bald-head,/
Run come crucify the dread./ Time alone
oh! Time will tell.' The urgency of flight
in Exodus is transposed into the reflect-
ive philosophizing of the more sombre
"Babylon System", from the Sur-
vival album roundly denounces the sys-
tematic brutalization of the downtrod-
den and asserts the authority of the
autonomous will to rebel:
We refuse to be
What you wanted us to be.
We are what we are
That's the way it's going to be.
You can't educate I
For no equal opportunity
Talking about my freedom
People freedom and liberty.
r aw ece ru'gu
The imagery of parasitism is appropriate:
Babylon system is the vampire
Sucking the children day by day.
Babylon system is the vampire
Sucking the blood of the sufferers.
Building church and university
Deceiving the people continually.
Me say them graduating thieves
And murderers, look out now
Sucking the blood of the sufferers.
Tell the children the truth.
The motif of the internalization of
liberation 'we are what we are' is
elaborated in the lyrical "Redemption
Song", from the Uprising album:
Emancipate yourselves from
None but ourselves can free our
Have no fear for atomic energy
Cause none a them can stop the
How long shall they kill our
While we stand aside and look?
Some say it's just a part of it,
We've got to fulfil the book.
Won'tyou help to sing, these
songs of freedom?
Cause all I ever had, redemption
rean, we ve been trouulng on
the winepress much too long "Chant Down Babylon", from the post-
Rebel, rebel. humous Confrontation album is incen-
diary, a celebration of the potency of
reggae music as an inciting force, a
manifestation of collective revolutionary
Come we go burn down Babylon
One more time.
Come we go chant down Babylon
One more time.
For them soft, yes them soft,
Them soft, yes them soft.
So come we go chant down
One more time.
Music, you're, music you're the
Talk to who, please talk to me
Bring the voice of the Rastaman
Communicating to everyone
A reggae music, chant down,
chant down Babylon ...
The 'burn down' /'chant down'
variant denotes a fundamental paradox
in Marley's apocalyptic vision. Like the
biblical prophets, whose message of im-
pending doom conveyed as well the pro-
mise of divine forgiveness, with repent-
ance, Bob Marley sings of both destruc-
tion and regeneration. Implicit in his
message of damnation is latent hope for
the redemption of Babylon and the
establishment of Jah's kingdom of
righteousness. Like the divine horsemen
of Revelation, Natty Dread rides 'thru
the mystics of tomorrow', chanting
All and all you see a gwan
Is to fight against the rastaman
So they build their world
In great confusion
To force on us the devil's illusion.
But the stone that the builder
Shall be the head cornerstone
And no matter what games they
There is something they could
Never take away
Something they could never take
And it's the fire, it's the fire, the
Only the birds have wings.
No time to be deceived
You should know and not believe
Jah says this judgement
Could never be with water
So no water could put out this
This this fire, this this fire
This this fire, ride natty ride
Go deh dready, go deh, dready, go
In practical political terms, the 'burn
down' /'chant down' variant also per-
haps denotes Bob Marley's awareness
of the actual power of Babylon in the
real world. The polemical language of
overt political confrontation 'burn
down Babylon' and the covert lan-
guage of ideological optimism 'chant
down Babylon' cleverly converge.
Marley, who on 3 December 1976, sur-
vived a brutal ambush in the night at
his Tuff Gong residence, conceded in a
1978 Melody Maker interview that:
Pure politics can hurt certain people,
so you 'ave to get hard, get soft, 'cos
guns don't argue, an' you talk too
much an' get too strong, they'll kill
ya because Babylon set up (their) own
system an' it no want nobody to change
it So is not everything you can
talk 'bout 'cos them kill ya. [Quoted in
Clarke 1980 pp 109-110].
Bob Marley's consistent use of meta-
phorical language the quality of his
style that Petrine Archer Straw aptly de-
fines as 'the hidden depth of reasoning'
 in his work is evidence of the
Jamaican folk wisdom compressed in
proverb that 'you haffi play fool fe ketch
wise' For example, in the menacing
"I Shot the Sherrif", with its aggressive,
derisive flaunting of Babylonian author-
ity, the primary mood is one of defiance
- Rhygin style:
I shot the sheriff
but I didn't shoot no deputy, oh
I shot the sheriff
A f 4 % W 1 4 *
~ ~~ ~ESc
but I didn't shoot no deputy, ooh,
All around in my home town
they're trying to track me down
they say they want to bring me in
for the killing of a deputy
Freedom came my way one day
and I started out of town, yeah
all of a sudden I saw sherrif John
aiming to shoot me down
so I shot / shot him down and I
if I'm guilty I will pay.
Yet, despite the bravado and the
willingness to accept responsibility for a
conscious act of 'self-defence', there is
as well a sense of an impersonal fate
working itself out. The final verse of the
song employs two proverbs, in a struc-
tural device of completion, which con-
firm the inevitability of reflexive ghetto
Reflexes had got the better of me
and what is to be must be
every day the bucket go a well
one day the bottom ago drop out
one day the bottom ago drop out.
Similarly, "Who the Cap Fit", from
the Rastaman Vibration album employs
riddling proverb to restate allusively the
theme of the song, hypocrisy:
Man to man is so unjust
You don't know who to trust
Your worse enemy could be
And your bestfriend, your worse
Some will eat and drink with you
Then behind them su-su pon you
Only your friend know your
So only he could reveal it
Who the cap fit
Let them wear it
The deceptively innocent neutrality of
the proverb "Mi say me throw me
corn/ Me no call no fowl" is deliber-
ately and ironically undercut by the
onomatopoeic fowl call 'I saving cok,
cok, cok, yeah!/cluk, cluk, cluk'. The
subterfuge language of Jamaican Creole
riddle is thus used by Marley to voice
his vision of the healing of the breach
between man and man.
This vision of redemptive love en-
compasses as well the need to trans-
form potentially exploitative male/
female relationships. Babylon, as wo-
man, must be redeemed. Three categor-
ies of Marley songs denote distinctive
responses to this dualistic Babylon sym-
bol woman and social system. First,
there is a cluster of songs, particularly
from the Exodus and Kaya albums in
which issues of domestic power and
powerlessness, love and suspicion are of
central importance. For example, "Wait-
ing in Vain", "Is this Love", "She's
Gone". One of the remarkable accom-
plishments of Marley's lyrics is the
seriousness with which he treats sexual
love, a subject which is often trivialized
in Jamaican popular music.
"Is this Love" opens with the man's
statement of intent:
I wanna love you, and treat you
I wanna love, you every day
and every night
we'll be together, with a roof right
over our heads
we'll share the shelter of my single
we'll share the same room, JA H
provide the bread
Is this love, is this love is this love
is this love that I am feeling?
The poignant image of the shared shel-
ter is reinforced by the ambiguous
'single' bed, which both denotes the inti-
mate warmth of material poverty, and
connotes a commitment to monogamy.
(One should not permit details of Mar-
ley's colourful biography to delimit the
range of meanings of the songs them-
selves. Asked about the significance of
the Kaya album, Marley himself states:
'You have to play it and get your own
inspiration. For every song have a dif-
ferent meaning to a man. Sometimes
I sing a song and when people explain
it to me I am astonished by their inter-
pretation.' [Wilson and Hall 1981 p.
24] .) The allusion to gambling, 'so I
throw my cards on your table', is pri-
marily an admission of honesty there
is nothing up his sleeve; but the very
metaphor of the game suggests the dicey
nature of male/female relationships. The
complex thematic movement of the
song is from the intention, 'I wanna love
you', to the question, 'is this love? and
finally the declaration, 'oh yes I know'.
The lover calls no trumps.
Secondly, there is a smaller group of
songs in which the correlation between
socio-political and domestic issues is
explicitly drawn. For example, the
elegiac "Johnny Was", from the Rasta-
man Vibration album is moving largely
because it evokes the dread power of
the Babylonian state in the intimate
terms of a mother weeping for her son
who has been destroyed by the arbi-
trary violence of ghetto life:
Woman hold her head and cry
Cause her son had been
Shot down in the street and died
From a stray bullet.
The song ends with a rhetorical ques-
tion that eloquently renders the pathos
of the woman's despair: 'Can a woman
tender care/ She cried . / Cease to-
wards the child she bear?'
The third group of songs is the one
with which I began: songs in which the
very conceptualization of Babylon as
fallen woman poses ideological prob-
lems. In the biblical image of Babylon as
whore a central tenet of Rastafarianism
is given symbolic expression. The female
is perceived as both deceiving, and vul-
nerable to deception. Like Eve, the pro-
totypical female, woman is a potential
snare for the Rastaman. Maureen Rowe,
a Rastafarian woman, notes in her
pioneering essay "The Woman in Rasta-
For the Rastafarl male, it was signi-
ficant that the first female mentioned
in the Bible was unfavourably mention-
ed. This was interpreted as a clear
warning against the potential evil in the
female. While the interpretation is
widely held by Rastafarl males their
response to it differs. Some brethren
are sympathetic in their response argu-
ing that the evil was in the devil and
that Eve was the victim. .. The other
attitude is more judgmental. It argues
that the female is impure and must be
kept from corrupting the male. It is
also implied wherever this attitude is
manifested that females should not get
together because of the potential for
sinful thinking and practices. The
female then must be guided, instructed
and restricted by the male [1980
The ambivalent response to the
woman characteristic of Rastafarian
fundamentalism is evident in Marley's
songs and in his statements about his
work. In a 1975 Caribbean Times
interview Marley is alleged to have said:
'Me never believe in marriage that much
S. .marriage is a trap to control men;
woman is a coward. Man strong.'
[Quoted in Davis 1983 p. 207].
Although one must reasonably dis-
tinguish between Marley's attitude to
woman and to marriage, one must note
that the image of woman as entrapper
rears its ugly head. But in that same
interview Marley expresses admiration
for Angela Davis: 'dat woman in Amer-
ica . Angela Davis, a woman like that
who defends something; me can ap-
"Pimper's Paradise" from the Uprising
album is a good example of Marley's
ambivalent response to fallen woman.
The song opens with the man's indict-
ment of the woman:
She loves to party, have a good time
She looks so hearty, feeling fine
She loves to smoke, sometime
She'll be laughing when there ain't
A pimper's paradise that's all she was
But the enigmatic line, 'Every need got
an ego to feed', suggests empathy for
the woman who has perverted natural
desire into self-destructive obsession.
The reference to paradise subtly con-
notes Eve's fall from original innocence,
seduced by Satan, the first world pimp.
The song ends with a clear statement of
regret, 'I'm sorry for the victim now'. It
then directly addresses the woman,
abandoning the initial 'throw-word'
Pimper's paradise, don't lose
track, don't lose
Track ofyourselfoh no!
Pimper's paradise, don't be just a
stock, a stock
On the shelf, stock on the shelf
The compassionate ambiguity of Bob
Marley's response to Babylon/woman
extends as well to Babylon/system, but
with greater reservations. For example,
in "We and Them" from the Uprising
album, the polarization of good and evil
is clearly articulated:
Me no know how we an them
A go work this out
We no know how we and them
A go work it out
But someone will have to pay
For the innocent Blood
That they shed every day, oh children
mark my word
It's what the Bible say yeah! Yeah!
Yet in the very recognition of funda-
mental antagonism is the possibility
that a way could be found to 'work this
out'. In the chant against Babylon is the
religious faith in a transformed earth
where Jah's creation will be restored to
But in the beginning Jah created
He gave man dominion over all
But now it's too late, you see men
have lost their faith
Eating up all the flesh from off
Marley's vision, like that of John the
Revelator, is for a new heaven and a
new earth, from which the former evil
has passed away:
And he cried mightily with a strong
voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen,
and is become the habitation of devils,
and the hold of every foul spirit, and a
cage of every unclean and hateful bird.
For all nations have drunk of the wine
of the wrath of her fornication, and
the Kings of the earth have committed
fornication with her, and the merchants
of the earth are waxed rich through the
abundance of her delicacies. [Rev. 18:
Bob Marley's song, like all great local
literature which we have come to call
universal, speaks first tothe particularcir-
cumstances of his own time and place;
its meaning expands in ever-widening
circles of compassion, levelling barriers
of race, class and geography. Bob Marley
lives in the rich legacy of song he has
1. I am indebted to Garth White, research
assistant at the African Caribbean Insti-
tute of Jamaica for his transcription of
the Marley albums, an ACIJ project. The
transcription of Natty Dread and Exodus
is not yet completed. Except for slight
modifications of lineation and punctu-
ation, the text that I use is Garth White's.
See also his invaluable Development of
Jamaican Popular Music .
2. For a vivid account of the complex pro-
fessional relationship between PeterTosh,
Bunny Wailer and Bob Marley see
"Peter Tosh: The Pulse Interview" in
Pulse magazine June 1984. pp. 14-15.
3. The story is also narrated by Timothy
White in Catch a Fire [1983 p. 23]. The
bravura with which White narrates ver-
batim conversations that he could not
possibly have heard raises suspicions
about the credibility of the entire bio-
4. "One Drop", Survival, 1979.
5. "Ride, Natty, Ride", Survival, 1979.
BRODBER, Erna and GREENE, J. Edward,
"Reggae and Cultural Identity in Jam-
aica", Working Papers on Caribbean
Society, Sociology Department, Uni-
versity of the West Indies, St. Augustine,
Trinidad Series C, No. 7, 1981.
CLARKE, Sebastian, Jah Music, London;
DAVIS, Stephen, Bob Marley, London: Pan-
ther/Granada 1984; reprint of 1983
Arthur Barker Ltd.
ONG, Walter, Orality and Literacy, London:
POLLARD, Velma, "Dread Talk- The Speech
of the Rastafarian in Jamaica", Carib-
bean Quarterly, 26: 4, December 1980.
ROWE, Maureen, "The Woman in Rastafari",
Caribbean Quarterly, 26: 4, December
STRAW, Petrine Archer, "Christopher Gon-
zalez's 'Bob Marley Monument': Master-
pieces from the National Gallery",
Lecture No. 8. Sunday Gleaner, 18
WHITE, Garth, The Development of Jamaican
Popular Music with Special Reference
to the Music of Bob Marley: A-Bibliog-
raphy. Kingston, Jamaica: African
Caribbean Institute of Jamaica, 1982
WHITE, Timothy, Catch a Fire, New York:
Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1983.
WHITNEY, Malika Lee and HUSSEY,Dermott,
Bob Marley: Reggae King of the World,
Kingston, Jamaica: Kingston Publishers
WILSON, Basil and HALL, Herman, "Marley
in His Own Words: A Memorable Inter-
view", Everybody's, 5: 4, July 1981.
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I I I
Aaron Joseph Matalon was born in Kingston
in 1919, the son of Joseph Matalon and his
wife Florizel, nee Henriques. The family
fortunes waxed and waned in the years be-
tween the two wars and young Aaron, one of
eleven children, found himself in the working
world at an unexpectedly early age.
After the second world war the young Matalons
started their own business, Commodity Service
Company, which began as a trading concern
and became the major shareholder in Indus-
trial Commercial Developments Ltd., one of
the largest companies operating in Jamaica at
present. Aaron Matalon retired in 1984 after
several years as president and chief executive
officer of ICD, of which he remains a board
In 1945 he married Marjorie deMercado and
they have three children: Joseph, Janet and
Shortly before going to press itwas announced
by the University of the West Indies that it
would confer the honorary degree of Doctor
of Laws on Aaron Matalon later this year, for
his service to the University and to Jamaica.
Talks to Martin Mordecai
Aaron Matalon at the time of his retirement (1984).
Martin Mordecai: Mr. Matalon, where
were you born?
Aaron Matalon: My mother was origin-
ally from Jamaica, a Jamaican Jewish
family. And my father, also Jewish,
came to Jamaica in 1912. He was born
in Damascus. As a young man he was a
textile instructor at a trade training
school in Jerusalem. He taught weaving.
He must have left there around the turn
of the century because he went to
Mexico and spent ten years. Apparent-
ly, he wanted to go to America and they
sold him a ticket to America but he
landed up in Mexico. We never got the
full story from him but assumed he
left there during the last Mexican Revo-
lution because he came here about 1912.
He didn't intend to come here, he was
on the way to Havana where an older
sister had settled and his younger brother
whom he left at home as a baby and
who was now living in Jamaica met
him at the boat. Said: Jamaica is a
very nice place, British government,
law and order and discipline with a Jew-
ish community. Why don't you spend
some time? Well, he came off the boat
and never left except on visits out; he
was here for the rest of his life. He met
my mother here, got married, and all of
the children were born here. He became
a naturalised British subject shortly after
the first world war. He died in New
York where he had taken my mother
for medical attention during the second
war. His remains were brought back
here for burial.
You say he had a sister in Havana.
An older sister who was with her sons in
Havana. She subsequently left Cuba and
came here for a very short while before
going back to Israel. She died in Israel,
Do you have relatives in the Middle East?
Yes, yes. Most of my father's relatives
are in Israel now.
Where in Kingston was thefamily home?
When my father came to Jamaica he
first went to St. Thomas where my uncle
had a business, and started a small
business. He got malaria, left St. Thomas
and went to Chapelton. He established
a business in Chapelton, got married and
lived there for a good while. Then he
moved to Falmouth and set up a whole-
sale and retail dry goods business. Dur-
ing the war he used to get goods by
train from Kingston to Montego Bay
and he had drays that brought his goods
from Montego Bay to Falmouth. And
he would sell wholesale along the North
Coast by car you had no trucks at
that time and was very successful. He
sold out his business in Falmouth after
the war and came to Kingston, went
into partnership with two other gentle-
men, friends of his, and they got in just
about the time the crash came and it
wiped them out; they had put up by
that time 60,000 of capital among the
three of them. The crash came and
khaki drill that was selling at ten shillings
a yard, dropped to tenpence per yard.
They were just able to pay off their
creditors. But then he started again, in
partnership with my uncle, and they
ran a dry goods business in Kingston.
They separated, and he moved to Mon-
tego Bay, unsuccessfully. Two hurri-
canes hit him there and wiped him out,
so he came back to Kingston. It was
very difficult for a few years until an
old friend started him up in business
again, Matalon and Company. I went
to work with him after he started again
But you were born in Kingston?
I was born in Kingston, in St. Andrew,
just below the clock at a place called
Adrian Villa opposite Knutsford Park. I
think the telephone company's credit
union is there now. That is the site; it
was a small farm at that time.
You grew up as one of, I think, eleven
We were eleven in all, yes, my sister
Pauline was the oldest; then Zacky, he is
the Custos of St. Thomas, he was the
second; my deceased sister Leah who
married Stewart Henriques was the third,
and I am the fourth child.
From what you've described of your
father's career, life can't always have
been easy, and it must have been very
difficult with eleven children.
And I fell into the bad part of that be-
cause when things really collapsed in the
thirties I was just 13% years old and
there was no money for schooling. They
sent me home from school, as a matter
of fact, for unpaid fees. They sent us all
home. But Mayer and Moses were young
enough and two very outstanding Jam-
aican ladies looked after them. Mrs.
Adella Murray we all went to her
school coached Mayer for a scholar-
ship, and Miss Brenda Smythe coached
Moses, they both won scholarships to
Jamaica College. So their schooling was
assured. But at the age of 13%, although
I don't know if I would have won one,
I was too old to sit for a scholarship. I
was intelligent enough to realize that
there was no hope of finding 3.6.8
which was the school fee then, for the
term, so after about five weeks at home
and on my fourteenth birthday, I went
out and got a job.
What job was that?
At Justin McCarthy. I was a messenger,
sort of post office boy and that sort of
thing. After a week or two they had me
selling. My first job paid eight shillings
a week. And my secondary or formal
education ended then. But in January
they gave me a raise of pay and kept
me on in the toy department. I think
my pay went up to thirteen shillings a
week then, and they kept me on, and I
saved enough money, a shilling a week,
or thereabouts. Because I had to con-
tribute at home, I mean it was really
tough at home, you know, with eleven
of us. My mother worked to ensure that
I had a clean shirt to go to work every
morning because there weren't many
shirts as you could well understand, and
she did everything, she was a blessed
So I saved a shilling a week, and when I
got twenty shillings I went to Kingston
Technical night school and did commer-
cial work. Miss Amy Bailey [see Jamaica
Journal 19: 2] was one of my teachers,
and Teacher Lloyd was another. I did
that for about eighteen months. Quite a
rigid routine I had, because we lived in
Rae Town then, so you'd walk to work
on King Street; you had to be at work
before eight o'clock because the doors
opened at eight and the rules were rigid.
Then you closed at five during the week
(later on Saturday), you'd walk back
home, do a bit of homework, have some
supper and walk to Hanover Street to
school, walk home at ten-thirty at night
and get up in time to go to work next
morning. I did that four nights a week.
Then my father's business started up, a
small dry goods wholesale business. I left
Justin McCarthy and went over to him,
and learnt the business and became a
country traveller. I was a travelling sales-
man at around the age of 16%. We used
to hire a car and travel, selling dry goods.
At that time my commercial training
ended in terms of school, cause I could
not do night school, travelling out of
town every week. I was with my father
right up until his death in 1944, and
then I took over the management of
Matalon and Co. His partner was a very
dear old friend George Penso, and we
operated the company as Matalon and
Co. because most of the customers
knew Matalon as a dry goods person.
But Commodity Service Company ...?
That was way-off yet. Now most of my
brothers were away in the service, you
know. Zacky was in the army, he was
in British Intelligence; he was in the
Eighth Army all the way through the
desert and right up to Rome. He was a
major in the army up until after the war.
They wanted to give him a permanent
commission and keep him on but he
didn't stay, he wanted to come home.
Moses had been doing engineering in
England, and he joined the navy. He
ABOVE: Joseph and Florizel Matalon (seated second and fourth from left) with their brood in the 1930s: (l-r) Mayer, Moses (seated), Isaac,
Eli, Gloria (in front), Pauline, Aaron, Leah.
BELOW: Ten Matalon children got together for the 80th birthday celebration of Mrs Florizel Matalon (seated, second left) flanked by her
daughters Adele (left), Pauline and Gloria. Her sons (l-r) are Owen, Mayer, Vernon, Eli, Aaron, Isaac, Moses.
was a lieutenant engineer in the navy, a
motor torpedo boat patrol in the Chan-
nel. He had quite an experience there.
And then Eli was in the Canadian Air
Force, a bomber pilot. Mayer had left
Jamaica about 1940 and he was with the
American base authorities in the Canal
Zone, he was a base inspector.
So I was the one at home. They started
coming back and we decided what the
heck, you can't work for anybody in
Jamaica; as an engineer you'd be lucky if
you got ten pounds a week, and you
couldn't bring up a family on that. The
possibilities of working for somebody at
that time were almost nil. Yet the oppor-
tunities that appeared to exist were also
tremendous. So we decided we would
have to do something on our own. My
sister who was in Panama had married
an American, he was in the army and
was coming out as well. We had no
capital; I had saved a bit of money, I
owned two little houses on Cunningham
Avenue. We were not quite sure what
we were going to do but it had to be
something that required a maximum of
effort and a minimum of cash. So we
decided we'd set up a company, and
Commodity Service Co. was born. We
went down to a friend I had at Royal
Bank, the manager, and he allowed us an
overdraft of 3,500 or 4,000. That's
how we started, in 1946.
Mayer managed it with my sister Pauline
who had gained considerable experience
as a secretary at Geddes Grant before she
went away. I kept on at Matalon and Co.,
managing it, until the end of 1948 and
I joined Commodity Service in early '49.
We lost 600 the first year, butwe ended
up with a staff of about seven. Then we
lost another 1,500 the second year and
our staff was about twenty that time.
We lost another 1,000 in the third year
and our staff was about thirty. But
from there on we never looked back
because we really had been building a
Moses with the assistance of Bill Master-
ton had been operating a small machine
shop and foundry on Luke Lane, and
through this connection we came in
contact with an Englishman who had
bought a factory in Kingston that manu-
factured cocoa butter and cocoa powder,
as well as hams, bacon, icicles, every-
thing under the sun. He wanted to return
to England so Eli took over the manage-
ment of the factory and we distributed
the products. We discontinued every-
thing but the cocoa products and after
a few months, in association with two
friends, bought the factory and paid for
it out of the first two years' profits.
Commodity Service Co. had become the
distributor for several overseas com-
panies with a wide range of products
including the production of Jamaica
Knitting Mill, and Mayer travelled fre-
quently to the Caribbean islands on sales
missions for this company. It was while
he was in Guyana that he recognized
the possibility of importing rice from
Guyana. After much negotiation be-
tween Commodity Service Co., the
Jamaican Trade Board, and the Guyana
Rice Marketing Board, Commodity Ser-
vice Co. established itself as a major
distributor of rice in Jamaica for the
Demerara Rice Board, and were the
purveyors of the first packaged rice
to come to Jamaica, much to the
annoyance of the traditional distribu-
In 1957 we turned our attention to
housing. At that time if you didn't
have 1,000 to put up for the con-
struction, as well as 600 for the piece of
land, it was almost impossible to get
your house built; but the American ex-
perience indicated that there were new
ways of doing it, such as the Levitz
system. Some aspects of that system
seemed adaptable here on a smaller
scale. We needed a system that would
give us a rapid rate as well as a superior
class of construction, resistant against
earthquake and hurricane thus
warranting a low rate of insurance.
We had to be able to build fast and
clean, and we would save a lot of money
on materials by doing our own import-
ing. We would eliminate high archi-
tectural fees by doing a basic design
with external or facade variations. We
would eliminate the contractor's profit
by building ourselves, and minimise
legal expenses by a repetitious form of
title and contract thus enabling us to
offer houses at a substantially lower
cost than the traditional method, and
with only a nominal down payment
and twenty years to repay.
So we said, let us see who has a hous-
ing system around the area to look at.
The only place we could find with simi-
lar conditions to ours was Puerto
Rico. We went there and selected the
best group with construction experience,
three brothers, youngish men, whom we
thought could help us. We worked out
an arrangement and set up a housing
construction company. Standard Life
Insurance Company and Eagle Star put
up the mortgage money in the first in-
By that time the West Indies Federation
had selected Trinidad for the capital
site, so the piece of land that Norman
Manley had set aside for the capital
here (Mona) was no longer needed. We
showed him our proposal for a housing
development and asked him to sell us
the land. It was 200 acres and he said,
'I'll sell you 150 acres of it'. He charged
us the highest price that any residential
land had sold for in Kingston at that
time. Harry Randall and Sauf Setton and
the other land speculators raised hell
with us, they were buying land at 600
per acre, and there we'd gone and paid
1500 an acre for Mona Land. But we
figured, to be successful, the develop-
ment had to be in a prominent place
where it could be seen; you talk about
building 716 houses at one time, they're
going to laugh at you.
We brought in a system known as the
monolithic pour. You build up the
house in one form, and then you pour
in all the concrete from the top. It was
very good and it was fast, but you still
had to plaster. Craftsmen, that was the
problem, but we did that quite success-
fully, though we didn't make a hell of a
lot of money out of Mona Heights.
I looked after the sales at that time. We
sold the houses off and then the politi-
cal activity started and before I knew
what happened, there were cancellations
left, right and centre, and I had a job re-
selling 400 houses after the project-had
been sold out. Now I didn't dare to sell
them as 400 houses as everybody
would've gotten scared. So I worked
out a programme, offered five turned
down by the mortgage company for re-
sale and that week I sold fifteen. Then
another five offered and I sold twelve.
I did that over a two-month period and
I liquidated them all; it was very suc-
What sort of political activity were you
making reference to?
Well, political opposition was vicious -
they said we were building matchbox
houses. They called the scheme 'Rain-
bow City' a middle class slum built
next to a beautiful place like Hope
Gardens! Harold Ashwell, the chair-
man of the Architects Association at-
tacked it. Anyway, we stood our ground,
and it turned out to be very successful.
Now in building this scheme, we re-
quired a particular type of window and
we put up the first window factory in
Jamaica, Tropicair Jalousies, to make
aluminium windows. We needed paint, so
Aaron Matalon as president of the Jamaica Manufacturers Association played a leading role in the second JMA exhibition, 1956. Here he offi-
ciates (left) at the opening ceremony where the ribbon was cut by Senator Adlai Stephenson (Democratic presidential contender, US.A.).
Between them stands the Premier, Hon. Norman Manley and at right, Mr. Roy Lawrence.
we put up a paint factory under licence.
So we had two industries going.
By the time we had finished that pro-
ject, we realized that that system was
not good enough. Better than anything
else, but not good enough, and we devis-
ed our own system. In this system we
cast the slabs on the ground. Large con-
crete slabs with everything in place.
Your door frames, your conduit, your
plumbing, everything.And you just erect-
ed them together, with heavy reinforce-
ment and so on. Proper steel. And you
had solved a major problem. We did
Harbour View Housing Estate on that
basis, with the precast slab. But we still
didn't have a good enough finish. My
brother Owen said, we're doing this
wrong. We're casting on a concrete slab.
Then we cast one slab on top of another.
We should cast this in a fibreglass mould,
so that when I lift it out I get a polished
face from the fibreglass. And I have ren-
dered the top so I get a perfect wall.
And so we developed our Wicon system,
which we licence overseas as well. And
that is the system we have used for all
of the developments since then. And
there is no other concrete housing sys-
tem we have found to compare.
By this time now we were very well
established, we had a number of things
going for us factory-wise. And we had a
very big operation. We thought the time
had come for us to concern ourselves
with a public offering. The stock ex-
change was being established and we
were one of the first companies to go on
Up until that point you had been a pri-
vate, family owned business?
We still are a family-owned business
since all our holdings in the various
things we do are owned by Commodity
Service Co. We kept the family unit
together and the ability to vote right
and take care of management, so that
there was no splintering. We took what
we considered safe entities at the time,
no-risk things. Like windows and paints.
And we had just bought from Seagram's,
Cecil B. Facey and P.A. Benjamin, at
the price Seagram's had bought them
for six years earlier, except that we
bought them on credit. So we set up In-
dustrial Commercial Developments
Limited (ICD) which is now a group of
about twenty-one different companies.
We have a Trinidad holding which is
mainly refrigeration manufacture and so
on. Mayer was chairman and I even-
tually became the president of that until
One thing that has struck me is that
your business has progressed as it need-
ed to: As you saw an opportunity. You
saw the Mona land and you saw a way
of building houses, but you needed
windows and you needed paint so you
got into manufacturing those. And it's
gone leap-frogging like that.
Our policy has been to do those things
that either were not being done or were
not being done properly. In other words
we didn't go into producing palm trees
because four or five people were pro-
ducing them and it looked like they were
I have always held that if I put up a
store on King Street to sell fur coats in
the middle of the year, I would have
four or five competitors in three weeks.
On the ground that if Matalon does it
there must be money in it. We have
avoided that principle altogether, and
dealt with the question of what's not
being done or what's not being done
properly. And that has really been our
success. That and the fact that we've
had family management, we've had per-
sons that were concerned with doing the
job properly. Because management has
always been a problem and is still a
problem up to this moment in Jam-
We've always had programmes of staff
training which have developed into
our training institute [Institute of Man-
agement and Production]. We're not by
any means the biggest company, but
we're the only one that has a training
operation of that type. With the help of
an exceptionally good director, Dr.
Neville Ying, this has developed to the
point where a number of our courses
have received external accreditation. We
have a B.Sc. in management course
there run in conjunction with UWI.
I am interested by that because, as you
said earlier on, when you started, none
of the brothers was university trained.
Some were trained in one way or another
but none formally, with a professional
That's right. All of our knowledge we've
acquired by reading, by examination, by
practice, by trial, by error. The young-
sters of course, the second generation,
are quite different, you know.
But there are still people who feel that
while specialist areas like, say, account-
ing, require training, this indefinable
thing you call business or management,
is not necessarily susceptible to being
taught in a classroom. Whereas ICD has
the Institute of Management which is
involved with the university.
Management today is a science that is
taught, learned and applied. It does not
mean, however, that every manager that
comes out is an entrepreneur, or be-
comes a good trader. There is a certain
element of feel to that, which you have
or don't have. The application of the
science varies between one person and
another. And there are some persons who
shouldn't be managers, just as there are
some persons who shouldn't be dentists
As someone who had to drop out of
school for financial reasons, what are
your thoughts on the current debate
regarding the increase in university fees,
on 'free education', especially tertiary
education, as a right?
I don't know of any country in the
world, except probably Saudi Arabia,
that gives tertiary education com-
pletely free to anyone. But funds
should be available to provide reason-
able long term repayment at low interest
rates if the individual is good enough
scholastically for a tertiary education;
that is, if there is an examination from
which the best brains, regardless of their
background, are chosen. Then if they
haven't the ability to pay for that, as
they go, funds should be available to
make it easy for them to pay now and
to repay later.
But every student who goes to a tertiary
institution in Jamaica already goes there
at a subsidized price; whether they pay
for it in cash or they use borrowed money
from a fund to do it. And I think they
should be made to give a certain part of
their service back to their country in ex-
change for that subsidy. I don't mean
free, but to take government employ-
ment for a period of time, be it a year,
two years, three years, what have you. I
feel very strongly about that. They owe
it as a duty.
Too many of our people come out of'
university and start as high salary earn-
ers in business. I don't know anywhere
else where it exists to this extent. If
you take a university graduate in most
disciplines the sciences, social sciences,
management, accounting (with the ex-
ception of medicine, they are low paid
in medicine) and you look at the salary
he commands on the market related to
the national income, it is, in proportion,
substantially higher than in the United
States of America. A fair amount of the
university education has too high a
starting price. And our graduates have
not been called on to put sufficient
One characteristic of the growth of
Commodity Service and ICD is the fact
that the family has remained together.
The unit is still one unit.
Now in Jamaica and I don't suppose
we are unique we find that in personal
respects but also in areas like politics it's
almost a tradition that brothers are on
opposite sides. And businesses also, fam-
ily businesses, have fragmented when
brothers disagree. To what do you at-
tribute this particular characteristic of
the Matalons to stay together?
It comes from the home. We came from
a very loving home and we're all very
close. As kids everything happened in
our house. On the avenue if you wanted
a cricket match you could get four
players over at the Matalons to start
with. And even one of the girls could
play as well. So whatever it was, took
place around there. Even when we were
poor we had that spirit of growing up
together, and it has stayed with us all
along. We are hoping that it is going to
exist with the second generation as well,
so far it is working, I hope it will re-
main that way after the second gener-
ation passes on. Therein is our strength,
I will tell you of an incident I'll never
forget, that I often tell people. During
the war my dad was very nervous with
so many of the children being away on
war service. It was nerve-wracking until
the mail came, so he used to sit on the
verandah at Belmont Road and play
patience. One day I was sitting beside
him and he had a pack of cards in his
hand. He handed it to me and said: 'Can
you tear this pack of cards?' So I said:
'No, I know people who can do it but
I can't'. He said, 'You know, it isn't that
difficult.' And he took the cards and
started tearing them one at a time.
He said: 'You know, if you brothers
stick together like this pack of cards,
you'll have the strength. If you go off
one at a time you'll be as weak as the
individual cards.' And that really has
helped "us all along. Our strength is in
In your speech at the banquet that they
had for you when you were retiring
from ICD, you told the story of your
first job with your father when you
were set to sweeping out the store, and
your father saying that you had to start
at the bottom to learn the business.
That was the dignity of work. 'First' he
said, 'never give a man a job to do that
you are not prepared to do yourself'.
'Secondly', he said, 'you will one day I
hope employ people and you will never
be able to instruct them properly unless
you can do the job yourself'.
Is this a principle that the brothers
have used with their children coming
into the business?
Not only with their children, but with
staff. If you are coming into the food
department you start in the warehouse.
You have to know how the goods get
out of the warehouse, how they are
delivered and so on, you learn your mer-
chandise by handling the goods. Nothing
like a hands-on experience. Then you
move upstairs to delivery. Then you go
out into the marketplace. No sense start-
ing as a salesman on the street if you
don't know what's in the warehouse.
Now you'll understand that some of our
youngsters don't come in in top jobs.
But they are bright and they are univer-
sity people, and they have the oppor-
tunity for rapid advancement, once they
perform. It took my son Joe fifteen
years to become the managing director
of the housing company. Fifteen
years in there he wasn't on top a year
or two after coming in. They can get
to the top very much faster than we
could because they come with a con-
siderable amount of the technology,
particularly the new technology, that
permits them to become proficient in
a much shorter time than it would have
taken us. But they cannot be allowed to
make the mistakes that we made be-
cause we made small mistakes then;they
will make big mistakes now.
A few Matalons have been involved in
On the political side we were always
PNP. 'Crab' Nethersole [Hon. N.N.
Nethersole] was our first counsellor. He
was a very good friend. Through him we
got to know Norman Manley. And I will
be very frank. You know, whether people
like it or not, the development of In-
dependence and nationhood came out
of the-ideas of the PNP. And we were
supportive of that and have been all
along. But none of us today is political-
ly active. And we are prepared to work
for whatever political party is duly
elected to run the affairs of the coun-
try. We're not party people per se, but
we have services to offer; regardless of
which party is the government our ser-
vices are available. We have always said
this; I said it in full page advertisements
in the Gleaner in answer to a vicious
attack on us in the House when we were
developing our housing business at
On a more personal note: you are a past
president of the United Congregation of
Yes, I served two terms in that capacity.
What was it like growing up Jewish in a
predominantly christian country?
We never had any serious problems being
Jews. You see, you had an unusual situ-
ation with the Jews here. In this respect:
after they got complete civil liberties all
of the debilities were removed. That was
around 1830-35. They petitioned the
Crown to get those liberties because the
local authority wouldn't grant them.
They couldn't own land, they couldn't
do a number of things, there were
numerous restrictions here. The Jews
and the free coloured people were on
par in this respect. At about the same
time they both got their freedom. But
the Jews had to petition for it, because
they were in a different category, al-
though they were all Jamaicans, and
predated the British by maybe 50-70
years because they were here with the
Spaniards, living as a sort of secret sect.
The minute they got these liberties they
went into the interior. They went into
the various parishes. You had a cemetery
in St. Ann, a synagogue in Spanish
Town and Montego Bay, a Jewish ceme-
tery in Lucea. We have about seven
Jewish cemeteries islandwise. They went
right through the island. They owned
land, they were shopkeepers. And with-
in a short period they were legislators.
There was one Day of Atonement when
the House decided to go into recess, as a
mark of respect for the Jewish members.
Eight members of the House of Assembly
were Jews at that time. That therefore
gave them a privileged position.
There are two other aspects: first, they
were the first people to consider Jam-
aica home. Those who came from Eng-
land didn't. They were plantation own-
ers who were going back. And the
Negro slaves always felt that they had
been transplanted. The Jews were the
people who were going nowhere, so
what they had was deeply entrenched
here. The second aspect of the privilege
that they had was being white. This en-
abled them to overcome the problems
and restrictions that the coloured people
had. Because to say 'I'm a Jew' was to
say 'I am white', which in those days
mattered considerably more than it
matters at the present time. With the
result that you'll find that from around
1850 onwards, although you had cer-
tain prejudices from the plantocracy,
who were in eminence at that time, the
Jews were in a more favourable position.
They took over shopkeeping from the
Scots Jewish families like the Lyonses,
Mordecais, Samuelses, Fishers, Nathans,;
Mottas, then owned the dry goods and
provision businesses -until the Lebanese
came and took over shopkeeping
from the Jews.
So they have always been in a favour-
able position. Many people have been
proud to say I'm a Jew because it means
I'm a white person, or I'm better off.
Because the Jews have had very little
poor. They've always taken care of their
own. We've always had a Jewish home
for aged people and so on. We've never
had any poor on the streets as such. So
that they've enjoyed a better average
position than the rest. So to be a Jew at
that time was no problem. I had a little
problem. Because to some of the Leban-
ese people I was a Jew, and to some of
the Jews I was a Lebanese. There was
prejudice. But we eventually overcame
that since as we grew up we went to
school with the kids, and that passed on
as the parents died off. But that was the
only type of prejudice I ever felt. I went
to work at Justin McCarthy and old
man Mr. Romero would say: 'Use your
Jewish intellect, boy'. To him it was a
great thing. So I've never really had any
problem with it.
What about the younger generation of
Well now we have a problem in Jamaica.
The Jewish community is dying here,
and will ultimately die. Unfortunately,
there is no replenishment of the stock
since migration restrictions were applied
back in the early twenties. Those re-
strictions affected the Jews who normal-
ly had an inflow of ten families or so a
year, which compensated for emigra-
tion and conversion and assimilation.
We haven't had that inflow since and as
a result the congregation has dwindled.
When I was a boy, we were probably
1600-1800 Jews, then. In Jamaica
today I don't think there are more than
And we've been very liberal with con-
versions. Any time there's a mixed
marriage, we allow the wife or hus-
band to convert once it's requested,
and the children automatically. No
restrictions are brought into play.
Theoretically if you are born from the
body of a Jewess you cannot be re-
fused, but if you're not born from the
body of a Jewess you have to go through
certain procedures. We have limited
such things to almost nil, just to sustain
the community. But unless something
happens, such as an inflow of new blood,
it will continue to get worse.
Do you think, for the sake of argument,
if you had been an only child or an
only son, obviously ICD and Commodity
Service would not exist as they do to-
day; but do you think that you would
have been such a successful person? Be-
cause you talk so much about the
friends that helped you, your brothers
and that sort of thing. But if you had
been a lone operator . .. Do you see
yourself as an ambitious person, for
I've always had a considerable amount
of confidence in myself. In fact I al-
most made a pledge with myself that
I'd never allow my early misfortune to
be a handicap. I wouldn't sit down and
say, well its not my fault, if I had had a
better education, or if my father had
been richer . . I always promised my-
self I'd never allow that to happen. So I
feel that I would have been successful.
The degree of success is hard to tell.
Suppose you had it to do all over again,
Yes, I can't think of anything else we'd
do. I can't think of anything we would
have done very much differently. Some
of the mistakes we've made and we
have made mistakes along the way,
fortunately with an operation like ours
you only hear of the successes we
would try not to make again. I've always
said, and I'm tough with my people on
it, that I have no objection to you mak-
ing a mistake. But if you keep making
the same mistake over and over again,
you have a problem.
Suppose you were told that you were
going to live your life over but you were
not allowed to involve yourself in busi-
ness, what other areas might you have
I never wanted to go into business. As
a child, I had hoped to do law. But I
could not because of my limited edu-
cation. My brother Mayer too, would
have been a brilliant barrister, but he
never had the opportunity.
Now that you have retired, do you spend
your time doing things that you didn't
have time to do before?
Well first of all I'm trying to get used to
the idleness. I thought I'd allow myself
the first eighteen months to two years
of doing nothing. To forget about busi-
ness. So I don't hang around the office
very much. If there is something that
you have done all along and you see other
people doing it, they are frequently not
going to do it the way you do it. And
you are going to assume right away that
they are doing it wrong. Whereas their
way is probably an improvement on
yours. So the best thing is to get the hell
out of there and stay away from it. So
I have been getting used to the fact of
not having to go down at eight in the
morning and coming back at five.
Well, I am doing some fundraising
work now with the Institute of Jamaica.
I still help them down at the Institute of
Management and Production. I am the
chairman of the board of governors there.
And I suppose I am taking on a reason-
able load. I am sixty-seven years of age.
I will do, if the opportunity arises, things
of that type. Activities that don't in-
volve business or money making, but are
more in the national interest. And they
will be Jamaican. I have no interest in
No. 1 Jamaica 21 Anthology Series
Jamaican Folk Tales and
by Laura Tanna
Songs Rhymes Riddles Proverbs
.Historical Narratives *Lying Stories
Parson Stories Duppy Stories *Anansi Stories
Covers the range of
Jamaica's Oral Art Forms
Over 50 narratives
Written down exactly as told.
Introduction: How the Stories were Collected;
How the Stories were Written Down
Chapter I: Background to Jamaican Folk TaleS
Chapter II: Storytelling as a Performing Art
Chapter III: Jamaican Oral Art Forms
Chapter IV: Jamaican Trickster Narratives
Chapter V: Other Old Time Stories
The historical, cultural and linguistic background which
gave rise to the oral narrative tradition in Jamaica is
explained and put into the context of the present situation.
Although the emphasis is on the stories, an effort is made to
examine storytelling as a dramatic art form so as to convey
to the reader some of the dynamic vitality of performance
which keeps the tradition of folk tales alive and enduring.
J$79.95 or U.S.$20
For free brochures on this and other publications on
Jamaican culture please write to us:
Institute of Jamaica Publications Limited
pUSSHERS2n JamaICa. T hone:
2A Suthernmere Ro.ad. Klngton 10, Jamaica. Telephone: 92-94785/6
from Images in Series: Aspects of Contemporary Ph'.:,:'igr ilh,
National Gallery of Jamaica 10 August to 10 October 1986
A selection from an exhibition by ten photographers
Images of Salt Island
from the series Images of Salt Island
showing the effects of
sun and wind on a landscape
Cecil Ward is particularly noted for his sensitive series on
the Hellshire Hills. He studied photography in Canada and with Maria LaYacona and has
had a solo exhibition of his work in Jamaica.
from the series The Presence of the Past,
taken in historic Spanish Town,
former capital of Jamaica and
Pat Green is an architect with a special interest in historic architecture.
from the series
Fata Morgana: Images of Paradise
Andreas Oberli has exhibited internationally
and since 1979, in Jamaica. His most recent work deals with rural Jamaica, particularly the
Blue Mountains, and focuses on environmental issues.
from the series
Portrait of Port Royal the People and their Environment
A humanist approach to a well-known historic locale
A full-time professional photographer particularly noted for her work
with the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica for 22 years. International acclaim for her
photographs in N DTC books Roots and Rhythms and Dance Jamaica.
Drought on the Mandeville Bypass
from the series Forms in the Mist
A medical doctor who has been taking photographs for
44 years. Since the National Gallery e- hii-tirion opened, has had his first major
solo exhibition, "Nitty Gritty".
Stones and Coconuts
from the series
Transformations of the 'Photograph'as subject:
Stones and Coconut
Deryck Roberts has been taking photographs
since 1962 and is known for his highly creative approach
to photography as art.
Appreciating our environment
Man should not wander as a stranger on the silent land
Nor under the wide sky move indifferent to the wind
A tree .. A river ...
A bird should be as extensions of himself
Written in rocks
And in the ways of wild things
Spoken in parables of water.
Told in the gift of sunlight is the code of man's existence
And the design for his survival
For the earth is home and the ways of nature are truth.
he union or harmony between
man and his environment which
this poem so beautifully describes
is exemplified by several
traditional life styles in Jamaica.
The rugged intimacy with the
environment shown by our mountain folk in the Blue
Mountains and Cockpit Country is an outstanding
example. Another, not so well known but equally
impressive, exists among the swamp dwellers of the
Black River, represented above by the shrimper at
work amidst the tools of his trade and the morass
which enfolds him.
The practice of shrimping in the Black River is almost
identical to that in the Great Niger River of West
Africa. In fact, the type of shrimpots used originated
there and they have changed very little in more than
300 years. Canoe construction is also the same and
the swamps bear a striking similarity. Sitting low in
his canoe and paddling ever so gently through the
back waters of his swampland, the shrimper typifies
the sentiment that 'the earth is home and the ways of
nature are truth'.
The environment is a unifying force. We care it for
our comfort or destroy it at our peril. We may
harness its riches to lift ourselves, but we can never
truly rise above it. Let us appreciate our environment
so that 'a tree, a river, a bird shall be as extensions of
BARRY A. WADE
Shaping the future today
in everything we do
BOX 579. KINGSTON 10. JAMAICA
THE CULTURAL HERITAGE
In August the Institute of Jamaica
launched the Cultural Heritage
Fund to raise money to assist in
financing its existing operations and
to implement new programmes.
It is hoped that the Fund will raise
five million dollars within five years
A national drive to attract
contributions from a
minimum of 500 commercial
an international drive to
agencies with a compatible
Sthe institution of Friends of
the Institute to enroll up to
10,000 persons who would be
entitled to a variety of
benefits from membership.
All contributions will be tax free as
the Institute has been declared an
approved charitable organisation.
The Fund Raising Committee is
chaired by Mr Aaron Matalon and
includes: Dr Laura Tanna, Mr
John Bloomfield, Miss Sonia Jones,
Mr. Errol Powell, Dr Lloyd Hunter,
Mr Anthony Gambrill, Mrs Pamela
Hart. Mr Winston Bayley, Dr
Neville Ying, Dr Wesley Powell,
Mr Marvin Goodman, Mrs Ruby
Martin, Dr Barry Wade, the Hon.
Hector Wynter, chairman of the
Institute of Jamaica and Mrs
Beverley Hall-Alleyne. executive
For more information on the
Cultural Heritage Fund, contact
Mrs Beverley Hall Alleyne.
Executive Director. Institute of
Jamaica, 12 16 East Street,
Kingston. Tel. 92-20620.
THE INSTITUTE OF JAMAICA
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founded in 1879 Its main functions are lo
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der the Insitrute of Jamaica Act 1978 and
falls under the portfolio of 'he Prime
The Insiolute s central decosion-making body
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Involved In .or.ous aspects of Jamaica s
cultural lite appointed in Iheir own right
and representatives of maoor cultural
organizations and institutions.
The Insmtute of Jamaoco consists of a central
admi.nstrarion and a number of dl is.ons
and associate bodies operating wirh ringg
degrees 1-t ouionom .
Chairman: Hon. Hector Wynter, O.J.
Executive Director: Beverley Hall-Alleyne
12-16 East Street, Kingston Tel: 92-20620
African Caribbean Institute (ACIJ)
Roy Wesi Building 12 Ocean Bld
Kingston Mall Tel 92-24793
Cultural Training Centre,
1 Arthur Wint Drie. Kingston 5
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Spanish Town Square Tel 98-42452
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Roy West Building. Ocean Boulevard,
Kingston Moll Tel- 92-28541
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Research Review No. 1
The African Aesthetic in Jamaican
The Evolution of African
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The Development of Jamaican
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Kumina: Stability and Change
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Jamaican Traditiona4Building Materials and Techniques
Text and Illustrations by Ann -lodgs .
-I- iIwl4 0
a O o f
Arawak thatch houses drawn by a Spanish chronicler, 1547.
hatch was one of the earliest
building materials used in Jamaica.
Arawaks constructed their build-
ings of wood, and thatched them with
the leaves of palm trees which were
indigenous to the island.
Many of the enslaved Africans brought
to Jamaica came from societies where
thatch was also widely used. Most Jam-
aican slave villages had thatched houses,
and it seems reasonable to assume that
the Africans adapted some of their prac-
tices for use here. Some fusion of Arawak
and African styles might also have taken
Thatch palm, and other plants used
in thatching, are freely available in most
areas of Jamaica, especially in the south-
west parishes, and techniques for con-
structing thatched roofs have been
handed down from generation to gener-
ation. Thatch palm leaves are also har-
vested regularly to make brooms, bas-
kets, hats and mats.
A small number of 19th and early 20th
century houses roofed with thatch
still exist, the thatch being renewed
over the years, but on the whole thatch
is nowadays rarely used on domestic
buildings, 'zinc' (galvanized corrugated
steel sheeting) having taken its place.
Even those people in St Elizabeth,
Manchester and Clarendon who still live
in thatched houses express ambivalence
about them. One retired builder from
Southfield attributed the decline in the
use of thatch to modernisationn'. And
yet he was positive about the virtues of
thatch. A thatched house, he said, was
'very much cool, very much healthier.
In those days nobody was hardly sick
because it is so ventilated. When I say
ventilated, I say it cool' This was
Duperley photograph of thatched houses circa 1905.
Duperley photograph of thatched houses circa 1905.
House of wattle and daub with thatched roof, St Elizabeth.
,. - '.- *'.
Thatch palms and thatched shelters by the pool, Treasure Beach
Hotel, St Elizabeth.
echoed by a woman living in a
substantial thatched house who said,
'you go inside in the day you late to
cook dinner you fall asleep it so cool'.
Until the relative prosperity and
improvement in construction techniques
in the 1950s, thatch was the accepted
roofing material in rural areas. One
informant, Mr Black from Clarendon,
explained how it used to be:
My first lickle thatch house when me
become a timekeeper now, an me start
to gal out. Other man, he carry gal a
bush a night time. Me na go a bush or
me ole man house, me build my thatch
home. Although my house was a less
house than my father house I WAS
STILL REGARDED AS AN
AMBITIOUS FELLA, building sometin
on my own rather than remaining under
my ole man shed.
Mr Black now has a five-bedroom
concrete house with a metal roof, but
he has built a rectangular, thatched
building to house his business a pork
While thatch is now rarely used on
residences, it is widely used as a roofing
material for bars, dance halls, stalls,
farm buildings, outbuildings such as
kitchens and for construction of
temporary shelters in the fields or on
work sites. It has also enjoyed a revival
as a natural material appropriate for
housing tourists looking for the simple
life, particularly in Negril.
Leaves of the five varieties of 'thatch
palm' trees which grow in Jamaica (see
Table) provide the material most
commonly used for thatching. Coconut
is sometimes used though it is less
durable than thatch palm. For more
temporary shelters, grass, river reeds
and cane tops are used where thatch
palm is not readily available.
The main elements of a thatched
roof are shown above.
The pitch of the roof is important.
A steep pitch is best, as the water runs
off quickly and does not penetrate. A
steep pitch is also good for resisting
hurricanes, as is the permeability of
thatch which allows for the release of
pressure which builds up inside the
building during a hurricane.
In rectangular buildings the roof can
be gabled (as in the case of tobacco
drying houses where the gable affords
maximum drying space) but they are
more often hipped. In every case I have
so far observed, the centre ridge is
supported by poles, that is, trussed
construction (which uses a structural
framework to span between supports)
is not used. This is particularly
interesting as pole type construction
(along with the centrepole circular roof
as used by the Arawaks) is used in West
R W EMPN 8 d1 0 M________ -
Underside of the ridge of a rectangular thatched roof. Note the post holding ridge on left, and
struts which go through the thatch. They are attached on the outside to poles which lie along
the roof holding down the thatch which covers the ridge.
Africa for thatched buildings, whereas
in England, for example, thatched roofs
are often supported on triangular trusses,
a feature which is not found in
traditional African architecture.
The method of preparing and fixing
the thatch is not, however, that used in
Africa. There, palm leaves are woven
and laid horizontally along the roof,
whereas in Jamaica the leaves are laid
up and down the roof tied to purlins,
in a fashion similar to that of Central
American Amerindians (close relatives
of the Jamaican Arawaks).
The thatch leaves are cut using a
sharp knife or machete to slice through
the shaft or 'bone'. Where trees are tall,
notches are cut in their trunks to provide
footholds to make cropping easier.
When cut, the leaves are firm and
green. They are then left to 'quail', that
is, to become limp and flexible in which
condition they are fixed in place. If the
leaves dry out, they become brittle and
cannot be handled without breaking.
The larger, stiffer, Big Thatch and Bull-
head thatch leaves must also be
flattened while they quail, by weighting
them with poles.
Long Thatch and coconut are woven
in preparation for use, the fronds from
one side of the spine being woven into
those on the other side to make a dense
strip of fronds down one side of the
Thatch is attached to the laths by
three basic methods: (1) 'split and tie' by
which a strip is split from the sheaf
of the leaf and used to tie the leaf to
the lath; (2) using twists of the fronds
to make the tie; (3) using withes to bind
the leaves to the laths.
Split and tie is used for the larger
thatches Bullhead and Big Thatch,
where the shaft of each leaf can be
up to three inches wide. Using a sharp
knife, the thatcher trims the shaft to
Badly overcropped Bullhead Thatch trees.
Note the notches in the trunks to aid climbing.
Bundles of Long Thatch with fronds woven for use.
Spli cotinves -fo eV d o Iaf
PREPARATION OF LONGTHATCH
approximately one inch wide, and splits
a quarter inch strip from each side of
the shaft, attached at the base of the
fronds, for use as ties. The shafts are
then cut to length to suit the lath
spacing, usually about one foot.
To tie the leaf to the lath, both of the
split ties can be used, crossed below the
lath and then tied on top of the leaf
shaft. Alternatively one tie is used,
wrapped diagonally around the lath and
shaft and tied to itself on top of the
shaft, as in the example shown. In this
case the second tie is still made, but just
remains as a 'spare' in case the other
breaks. A small bunch of the fronds is
combed to one side as each leaf is laid
'Split and tie' technique using Big Thatch.
Ila~e 41.L- IS M Wd14
*rf hii4C4 liik K9L-
SPUT AND TIE BIG THATCH
Thatchers at work on a Negrl restaurant using Silver Thatch.
Underside of a roof thatched with Long Thatch tied on with wiss.
and, depending on the skill of the
thatcher, can form a neat pattern when
seen from below.
In the second method, twist and tie,
the fronds are used to tie the leaf to the
lath. This is the quickest, requiring least
preparation, and is used for the smaller,
round thatch leaves. The leaves are used
double, or in some cases in threes to
give sufficient bulk. The shafts are
slotted together, and then small bunches
of the fronds of the leaves are twisted
together and the twist is used to tie the
thatch to the lath. Several different
knots are used, sometimes using one
twist, sometimes using a twist from each
side of the shaft.
The third method uses withes !J
(known as 'wiss' usually the aerial
roots of the mangrove) to tie bunches of
Long Thatch or coconut leaves, reeds,
grass or stripped coconut. A large
'blanket stitch' is used to tie the thatch
material to the laths, each bunch being
packed close to the one before. Thatchers at work repairing a roof in St Elizabeth.
Thatchers at work on roof Note thatch being hauled up by a rope.
House of Spanish walling with thatched roof,
Thatched community building, New Broughton,
Thatched house and buttery, St Elizabeth.
At the ridge of a rectangular building,
leaves are laid along and over the ridge
pole, and are held down by round poles
on each side, which are themselves held
down and together by short struts
passing through the thatch, to which
they are tied (see p. 30).
Thatch has to be cut and prepared in
advance of use. This is sometimes done
by the thatcher who will be doing the
work, or for more commercial jobs as
in the case of the tobacco companies, it
is bought from independent cutters.
Thatching a house is a social activity.
Apart from the thatcher in charge, one
or two other men are employed for
fixing the thatch, and other hands are
needed to lift the thatch to the roof.
This is sometimes the women's job. In
addition there is food to be cooked.
Although each thatcher has his own
method, on each job one method is used
throughout, determined by the thatcher
Thatch as a building material does
have drawbacks. Although a thatched
roof can be watertight for many years,
it must be maintained at times by
replacing areas which begin to leak, and
this is a very dusty process. It is claimed
that these roofs harbour rats and lizards,
although I have not heard this complaint
from anyone actually living under a
thatch roof. More serious could be the
danger from fire.
It is claimed that a thatched roof can
last up to forty years and has the
advantages of good insulation, no clatter
from rain, good hurricane resistance and
at present clear cost benefits, especially
TWIST AND TIE S LVERTHATCH
Demonstration of 'twist and tie' technique.
if one crops the leaves oneself. However
the disadvantages and social responses
to the material, suggest that in future
thatch will continue to be favoured
for bars or other recreational areas but
not for houses.
There is therefore an urgent need to
conserve the few really old thatched
houses which have survived. These,
buildings demonstrate the ingenuity of
the peasant and artisan descendants of
slaves, and complement the buildings of
the more prosperous classes. The small
buildings also deserve to be recognized
and conserved as part of our national
The generation of craftsmen who are
currently repairing and building thatch
roofs and houses are well into their
sixties and seventies. While a few young
men are building the occasional bar or
shelter, these tend to be crude affairs.
Unless some younger people learn the
craft from the skilled craftsmen before
they retire or die, the attractive, long-
Beach bar thatched with Long Thatch.
lasting thatch roof could become a thing / I,
of the past.
Conserving the Trees
For thatch to be readily available as
a building material, a supply of leaves
must be maintained. Thatch palms grow I
very slowly. Professor G. Sidrak of the
department of botany, University of the
West Indies, estimates that a thatch
palm tree takes twelve years to reach
maturity. He recommends that only
every other leaf be cut; the tree can
then live and produce for over ninety
years. If the tree is overcropped, it will
die prematurely. Unfortunately,
overcropping is frequently seen.
.. . ._, ._ o. I .;: JII
Thatch is still widely used to make tobacco sheds. Mr. Linval Lewis stands in the doorway of one o
the sheds thatched by him. Other photos show the gable end of one of these sheds (below) ant
sheds in the field in Clarendon.
Twelve years ago the botany
department was asked to experiment
with establishing plantations of palms
for use in basketwork. The trees planted
then now form a jungle in the grounds
of the University of the West Indies
opposite the Mona reservoir, while the
instigators have long since forgotten the
Perhaps it is time to think again
about restocking the countryside with
these useful and beautiful trees, so that
we will have ample mature thatch to
provide baskets and roofs into the 21st
century, and maintain our stock of
historic thatched buildings.
Shelter thatched with cane tops, Hanover.
Thatched house near Santa Cruz, St Elizabeth.
Two thatchers at work on a roof in St Elizabeth. Most of the craftsmen are now in their sixties
and seventies; few young people are learning the skills.
ADAMS, C.D., Flowering Plants of Jamaica:
University of the West Indies, 1972.
DENYER, Susan, Traditional African Archi-
tecture, Heinemann, 1978.
Hubert Donaldson, Westmoreland, 1986
Leon Ellis, Clarendon, 1986
Mr Black, Clarendon, 1985
Leonard Lewis, Manchester, 1985
Vincent Reynolds, St. Elizabeth, 1986
Mr Salmon, St. Elizabeth, 1985
Professor G. Sidrak, University of the West
Research for this article was sponsored by
The Memory Bank project c/o Office of the
Prime Minister, 1 Devon Road, Kingston and
the Construction Resource Development
Centre 166% Old Hope Road, Kingston 6.
Jamaican Thatch Palms
Type of Botanical name/ Size Habitat Lath Method of Leaf Roof Pitch Example
Thatch Distribution Spacing Tying Spacing
Silver Coccothrinax 6-25 ft. high; Trunk Common in limestone 8" in pairs, 4" ? deg Negril,
Thatch jamaicensis 2-8 in. (diameter); areas along south twisted, Westmoreland
endemic leaf 3-5" wide. Grey coast, 900-2000 ft. wrapped and
to silvery underside tied
Crab Thatch Thrinax parviflora 3-30 ft. high; trunk Very common in
Butter Thatch endemic 2-5.5 in. (diameter) central and western 6" leaves in pairs, 4" Tobacco
Broom Thatch leaf 27-55 in. across Jamaica on well fronds twisted houses
Thatch Pole drained limestone wrapped and Clarendon
S L-3000 ft. tucked
Bullhead Thrinax multiflora 6-30 ft. high; trunk Common in thickets
Thatch Florida, Mexico, 3 5 in (diameter). and exposed areas 12" split and tie 4" 30-90 houses
Sea Thatch Cuba, Belize, leaf 4-5ft. wide on coastal limestone degrees St. Elizabeth
Hispaniola S L-250 ft.
Big Thatch Sabal 30+ ft.; trunk common
Bull Thatch jamaicensis 1 1.8' (diameter) SL 1700 ft. 18" split and tie 4" 30-90 houses
endemic leaf up to 12 ft. degrees St. Elizabeth
Long Thatch Calyptronoma 20 + ft.; Damp woodlands
occidentalis leaf 9-12 ft. long locally in lowland
endemic swamps 6" plait and tie touching 45-80 Negril, e.g.
S L-2250 ft. 6" with withes degrees Cosmos
Anancy and Andrew Salkey
By Mervyn Morris
I n one of Andrew Salkey's poems the persona declares:
Yes, I am one of those
who left the island;
but I am also one of those few
who remained behind;
/ never left.
(Away, p. 39)
Salkey's writings variously manifest his continuing identifi-
cation with Jamaica (and with the Caribbean, and with Third
World political concerns). Andrew Salkey author of five
novels, two short story collections, nine books of fiction for
children, four volumes of poetry and two non-fiction books
of reportage and reflection, editor of seven Caribbean antho-
logies [see list below] was born of Jamaican parents in
Panama in 1928 and brought to Jamaica in 1930. He grew
up here. He left in 1952, for England. After graduation from
London University, he was a schoolmaster for a while; but
between 1952 and 1976 he earned his living mainly as a free-
lance broadcaster with the External Services of the BBC in
London. Since 1976 he has been a Professor of Writing in
the United States of America, at Hampshire College in
One of the ways in which Salkey asserts his Jamaican ori-
gins is in continued use of the Anancy figure. Since at least
the 1960s Salkey has been composing his idiosyncratic
Anancy story versions. Some are presented in Anancy's
Score. (Another collection, Anancy, Traveller, is due for
A recent article tells us that 'the young Salkey was early
enamored of the folk tales of Jamaica, especially the Anancy
tales, which his grandmother and others used to tell him.'
[Dance 1986 p. 418]. In the traditional Anancy stories1
Anancy is a cunning spider-man, often greedy, lazy, envious,
as well as shrewd. He often outwits some formidable adver-
sary. Though sometimes bested, he is the great survivor. In
some of the stories he is credited with Godlike powers: he is
the reason why pig mout long, why rat live in a hole, why
mongoose love chicken meat, why fowl eat cockroach, why
dog fight cat, and so on. Is Anancy meck it: a reminder that
the West African ancestor of Caribbean Anancy was an Akan
Creator God. We expect an Anancy story to be easy to fol-
low, our comprehension aided by repetition within the per-
formance, by gesture, mimicry and song. We expect that the
Anancy story will normally be an oral performance in creole,
though there may be audiences for which it has acceptably
been translated into print and into standard English [see, e.g.
Salkey explicitly acknowledges a debt to the traditional
Anancy story. But, as the 'Author's Note' to Anancy's
Score makes clear, his creative mission is to reconsider, re-
vise and extend the tradition, to use Anancy in new ways.
There is considerable emphasis on the author's creative free-
dom: 'wilfully', 'for my own ends', 'in my own imagination',
'this personal collection', 'mine', 'mine'.
The traditional Anancy is a crisp, cool, calculating spider, a
persuasive, inventive, anarchic spider-man.
I have wilfully used his name, and even more wilfully tried to
understand his nature, and remoulded it for my own ends.
I have plucked my Anancy from the great folk tales of West
Africa and the Caribbean, and I have made him inhabit both
worlds, the old and the new, locked deep in my own imagin-
In this personal collection, the language and the plots are mine;
and the twists, turns and flights of invention are also mine ....
[Anancy's Score p. 71 2
The first sentence of the opening story signals didactic
intentions with political overtones. Memory of an Edenic
past is contrasted with a world now threatened by drug abuse
and nuclear destruction. 'Once, when neither mushrooms on
the ground nor mushrooms up in the air were killing off
people, when trees were honestly trees, when things used to
happen as if they hadn't any good reason not to happen,
when time was just time, there were plenty chances for small
animals to grow into big animals without being maimed along
the way.'  Knowledge of the collection as a whole en-
courages us to read those small animals as symbolic not only
of children but also of small nations: Anancy's Score is very
much concerned with the problems of small Third World
countries. In "New Man Anancy", the final story, there is
'the sort of voice that ups and say things like, for instance:
A. World make out o' the riches o' C. World; B. World make
out o' A. World an' C. World an' C. World make outo' wha'
left, approx. dregs an' leaving's  Everywhere there is
division and conflict. In "Gold, Silver and Brass" class division
is 'like three fence without post and barb wire or any such
boundary marking at all'.  When Anancy travels and
comes home again he finds that overseas interests have bought
into his country and are establishing their class divisions there.
In "Vietnam Anancy and the Black Tulip", "Soot, the Land
of Billboards" and "In Yessing Mount" there is racial tension
Anancy can play all sides in this divided world. Like the
traditional prototype, Salkey's Anancy is various, ambiva-
lent, sometimes a figure of hope, a model of how to survive,
sometimes an exploiter. He wears innumerable masks, he
comes in countless forms. "Is Anancy is a spider is Hope is a
green t'ing is politics is Anancy is Anancy is Anancy!" 
Salkey's Anancy can be "The Man Name Peacefulness", pur-
sued by three very allegorical women: Russ, Ame and Gra B
(Russia, America and Great Britain). As trickster he appears
as politician, merchant, preacher. He is, for example, an ex-
pert at political rhetoric.
"Me people, I with you. All you wants goin' satisfied bapi
Belly bottom goin' full up. Eye done waterin'. Opportunity
knockin' pure bangin'. Progress pissin' down. No more Up-class
versus Down-class. New groun' under you foot. But careful one
t'ing." He stopping short. Nothing pleasing him more than
doing that sort of Question Time pausing for effect, as the
shoulders hunching and the green coat wrinkling and forming a
miracle of folds. He narrowing the eyes and clearing the throat.
In "Anancy, The Sweet Love-Powder Merchant", 'Brother
Anancy, like most just-arrive grabalicious samfie-man, drink-
ing more than one spider fair share of whites, and people
seeing him as he spangle staggering round the village at all
sorts of unclockable hours.'  He is the samfie-man again
in "Anancy, the Spider Preacher"; the preacher practices
obeah: 'the skull them looking like wind-rain bleach guards
and seeming to rock, back and front, grinning so-so mockery'.
Malevolent Anancy can be "Anancy, the Atomic Horse",
gulping down children, infecting them with despair. Rescued
from the belly of the beast, 'the seven boy pickney them close
in on Brother Man and Sister Woman, form a ring, dance
round little bit, stop, shuffle foot, gather speed, stampede
and kill them on the spot baps.'  In "Seventeen", an alle-
gory of cultural heritage, Anancy kills sixteen of his seven-
teen mothers and, finally, nauseated by her love, the seven-
teenth as well.
There is also conflict, clearly, within the individual self. In
the first story, entitled "How Anancy Became A Spider In-
dividual Person", Anancy, 'a swallow hard 'usban', a knock
softly' , is presented as gentle and good, his wife as nega-
tively cunning. After the fall, they become 'one spider indi-
vidual person, and the cunning ways Anancy is famous for
are the cunning ways of his wife locked way deep down
inside him, and the pretty web you see him spinning so is be-
cause of the goodness of the poet-person in Anancy own first
ol'-time self'.  (The book appeared in 1973 we were
all chauvinists then.)
Having set up this model of the divided/integrated self,
Salkey takes the idea through other stories. In "Anancy and
the Ghost Wrestlers" Anancy defeats many a formidable
ghost. He has greatest difficulty when he must fight his own
spirit, '(one-time conqueror and only conqueror of Anancy)'.
 That Anancy is in conflict with himself is suggested in
his relations with women. In "Seventeen" it is in terror of
her love that he kills the final, seventeenth mother.
All she doing is proving that she got a hundred mother power
lock way deep down inside her, if he ever want tap it and use it
in him living. She give him one last mother kiss. And as she do
that so, Anancy catch a creeping nausea running direct to him
brains, where the history names lurking like t'ief, and he shame
bad. So, he kill her, too. .
In "Anancy, Don't Give Up!", Anancy 'believe love still exist-
ing in the world, at large, all over'.  'He ease himself
into a day dream .... He feeling a free friendship thing with
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himself. He thinking he know himself.'  Then, in his
dream, when a woman called Mira offers him sexual love, 'He
looking, but he seeing no shape, no body, just a heap of small
chains.'  Anancy disappoints the woman.
Towards the end of the book, there is a story in which
Anancy learns to value his wife as an equal. 'He learning that
live wit' and dey wid mus' be a tree with fruit, or else.' 
He recognizes that 'the oneness is always more than minutes.
 His wife, who had left him for a while when he, em-
ployed as a gardener, had been functioning as a St Andrew
stud, declares that she too needs to change, to regard her hus-
band as a man and not as a boy. "Five or fifty, all o' you
is boy. So, now that you equal up yourself wit' me in you
mind, I goin' 'ave to study me head an' change to accep' that
rapid growth yes." 
Protean Anancy is also, of course, the artist, a symbol of
creative possibility. The artist suffers and records it all.
"Spider Hell Hole" presents Anancy's rumination on the 'big-
time writing thing. He decide he going write in him own sort
of way a number of newspaper article, leader, editorial, stop
press item and sports result.'  The list would seem to
suggest, metaphorically, certain tendencies in Anancy's Score:
the collection editorializes, is close to the topical, is concern-
ed with who wins when ('the sports result'). Anancy examines
his 'change-ups' and thinks about 'the critic people and what
they going say. Then he gets depress same time.' 
The 'change-ups' is a reference, presumably, not only to
Anancy's revisions of earlier work but also to his 'change-ups'
of the traditional Anancy story and his 'change-ups' of what
many people think of as the normal patterns of language. He
mixes 'prose business, like direct word using' and 'the other
way [that] got to do with poem.'  What he gets is
'something nearish a prose poem linking'.  When he
moves on from editorials, news and sports results to 'ad-
vertisement and shop sign' he 'work magic and change them
with him prose poem imagination.' .
'When he done finish the score, he empty.'  There
are twenty short stories in the collection, a score of them.
But 'score' is (or was) also a Jamaican slang expression for
'the story, the news'. A third suggestion is, of course, 'score'
as in musical score, the notations to be translated into sound.
'When he done him prose poem exercise at week end, he sit
back and reading them loud.'  The stories are oral.
Salkey has read some of them on the BBC and been much
commended. 'Quiet, nuh, and hear me: trust me when I tell
you that, if you walk near to your own stand-pipe, you
going hear the same music talking to you.'  Although we
have them in a book, the stories have been written for the ear
and are often more attractive when heard.
There are other hints about the ambitions and problems of
the artist: 'if you catching the sign I trying to point to slant-
ways.'  "Anancy, People Painter" seems to imply that
excellence is excellence, whatever the artistic scale. 'Giant
big an' giant can small, too.'  In "Anancy, Don't Give
Up! Anancy is trying to spread hope and determination,
but his efforts are not everywhere appreciated. Some people
screw up the notes and throw them in the gutter. 'Anancy
shake him head at the blindness and walk way like a pro-
phet in him own back yard.'  Without honour. 'He
walk and he get ignore, left and right.'  In his day-
dream Mira 'looking at him and seeing a different sort of
man, a man who looking like he going break ground some-
where, like pioneer and so.'  'He 'custom to work hard
as bitch. He 'custom to plenty worries. Long hours with so-so
bad luck. No praise. No outside help. Scraps f'lunch. Some-
times, not a supper is a supper.' [149-150] Sometimes Anancy
has a bird of inspiration in his head, and sometimes, when
communication is achieved, the effort of the artist seems
worthwhile. 'The bird shake in Anancy head two time. He
smile as he notice that him DON'T GIVE UP notes blow-
ing all over the place. The street and sidewalk litter with
them. Everybody picking them up and catching a read same
time, north, south, east and west.'  Anancy, making
wealthy connections, becomes more and more prosperous
until he takes off into space with the world at his feet. Then
he needs new worlds to conquer. His wife his muse? -
directs him to the world inside his head. "New Man Anancy"
shows us Anancy focused on the world outside again:
So much life-living and death-nearness was blocking up Anancy
as he looking back over the years in the ol' country and in
f'him own new one that he decide to sink the pictures in him
head, and look out to the open window, out into the yard,
where the generations was jus' catching the sun in the early
part of the day. 
The need for a new man is discussed: 'he got to be brandless.
He can't be brand new or else the brand might hol' all o'
we to ransom note, one way or the other.'  The red
dirt (of bauxite) talks to Anancy of political realities. The
volume ends with the people holding a RED DIRT MEET-
ING and with a boy's attention redirected from the A.
World ships towards the RED DIRT MEETING sorting
out his C. World future.
Anancy's Score implies that the positive C. World
future will not be fully grasped in the inherited language
of the A. World. The Edward Brathwaite epigraph begins: 'It
was in language that the slave was perhaps most successfully
imprisoned by his master; and it was in his (mis-) use of it
that he perhaps most effectively rebelled.' [1981 p.31]. The
language norm of the collection is not standard English; nor
is it conventional creole. Victor Questel [1974 p. 6] has re-
marked on Anancy's 'gift of style, his slickness with words.'
'It is a style,' he writes, 'which depends on sheer energy of
words and the dislocation of traditional grammatical struc-
tures for its impact on the listener.' An anonymous review in
Corlit [Vol. 3 July 1974 p. 52] commends 'Salkey's versatile
use of the Jamaican dialect.' Helen Tiffin is less approving.
'Ultimately,' in her judgement, 'there is rather too much self-
consciousness in Salkey's use of Anancy in his stories. The
style and language draw attention to themselves as if the use
of Jamaicanisms (and some eccentric Salkeyisms) were still
an inherently rebellious activity . . [1982 p. 28]. There
are other readers who find the self-consciousness off-putting:
Jean Purchas-Tulloch is one. 'Sherlock's tales,' she writes,
'are told close to Standard English, Walter Jekyll's told in
similar language [surely not?], Andrew Salkey's in a stilted
bourgeois patois, a blend of "Jamaica English" and "English-
English",while Louise Bennett's, on the other end of the con-
tinuum are told in dialect with her typically strong Jamaican
flavor.' [1978 pp. 228-29] But, in its different way, Salkey's
language also has a strong Jamaican flavour, though some
of the expressions he uses were more current in the 1940s
than they are today. Salkey has chosen and developed a high-
ly self-conscious form, the didactic prose-poem story. Like
Anancy down in his Spider Hell Hole, he has elected to mix
'the direct word personality . with a touch up from him
natural prose poem personality. He know the mixture going
work wonders, if he don' look out.' [129 .
The Salkey mixture combines unusual music and plenty
of comment, some slantwayss', some direct. Salkey is extend-
ing the Anancy story tradition; and, as Victor Questel has
noted, Anancy's Score 'opens a large range of possibilities to
the creative writer who wants to begin with a folk-figure.'
1. For examples of traditional Anancy stories see Beckwith [19691,
Bennett  Dance , Jekyll , Sherlock ,
Tanna . For discussion of the Anancy tradition see Pur-
chas-Tulloch , Tanna [1978,1983].
2. Page references to Anancy's Score hereafter given as numbers
BECKWITH. Martha Warren, Jamaica Anansi Stories, New York:
American Folklore Society, 1924; Kraus Reprint, 1969.
BENNETT, Louise, Anancy and Miss Lou, Kingston: Sangster's
Book Stores, 1979.
BRATHWAITE, Edward Kamau, Folk Culture of the Slaves in Jamaica,
London: New Beacon Books, 1971,1981.
DANCE, Daryl C., Folklore from Contemporary Jamaicans, Knox-
ville: University of Tennessee Press, 1985.
,"Andrew Salkey" in Daryl Cumber Dance (ed.), Fifty Carib-
bean Writers: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook, West-
port: Greenwood Press, 1986.
JEKYLL, Walter (ed.), Jamaican Song and Story, 1907; New York:
Dover reprint, 1966.
PURCHAS-TULLOCH, Jearn Jamaica Anansi, Ann Arbor: University
Microfilms International, 1978.
QUESTEL, Victor, "Towards Anancy Becoming One Total Person",
Kairi, No. 2, 1974.
SHERLOCK, Philip, Anansi, the Spider Man, London: Macmillan,
TANNA, Laura, The Art of Jamaican Oral Narrative Performance,
Ann Arbor: University Microfilms International, 1978.
"Anansi Jamaica's Trickster Hero", Jamaica Journal, 16:
Jamaican Folk Tales and Oral Histories, Kingston: Institute of
Jamaica Publications, 1984.
TIFFIN, Helen, "The Metaphor of Anancy in Caribbean Literature"
in Robert Sellick (ed.), Myth and Metaphor, Adelaide: Centre
for Research in the New Literatures in English, 1982.
Books By Andrew Salkey
A Quality of Violence, London: Hutchinson, 1959; London: New
Escape to an Autumn Pavement, London: Hutchinson, 1960.
The Late Emancipation of Jerry Stover, London: Hutchinson, 1968;
Harlow: Longman, 1982.
The Adventures of Catullus Kelly, London: Hutchinson, 1969.
Come Home, Malcolm Heartland, London: Hutchinson, 1976.
Short Story Collections
Anancy's Score, London: Bogle-L'Ouverture, 1973.
Anancy, Traveller, Forthcoming from Bogle-L'Ouverture.
Fiction for Children
Hurricane, London: Oxford University Press, 1964; Harmondsworth:
Puffin Books, 1977.
Earthquake, London: Oxford University Press, 1965.
Drought, London: Oxford University Press, 1966.
The Shark Hunters, London: Nelson, 1966.
Riot, London: Oxford University Press, 1967.
Jonah Simpson, London: Oxford University Press, 1969.
Joey Tyson, London: Bogle-L'Ouverture, 1974.
The River that Disappeared, London: Bogle-L'Ouverture, 1979.
Danny Jones, London: Bogle-L'Ouverture, 1980.
Jamaica, London: Hutchinson, 1973; London: Bogle-L'Ouverture,
In the Hills Where Her Dreams Live: Poems for Chile, 1973-1980,
Havana: Casa de las Americas, 1979; Sausalito: Black Scholar Press,
Land, Sausalito: Black Scholar Press, 1979.
Away, London: Allison and Busby, 1980.
Havana Journal, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971.
Georgetown Journal: A Caribbean Writer's Journey from London
via Port of Spain to Georgetown, Guyana, 1970, London: New
West Indian Stories, Faber and Faber, 1960.
Stories from the Caribbean, London: Elek Book', 1965.Also published
as Island Voices: Stories from the Caribbean, New York: Liveright,
Caribbean Prose: An Anthology for Secondary Schools, London:
Breaklight: An Anthology of Caribbean Poetry, London: Hamish
Hamilton, 1971;Garden City: Doubleday, 1972.
Caribbean Essays: An Anthology, London: Evans, 1973.
Writing in Cuba since the Revolution: An Anthology of Poems,
Short Stories and Essays, London: Bogle-L'Ouverture, 1977.
Caribbean Folk Tales and Legends, London: Bogle-L'Ouverture, 1980.
Sere great n
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Barrington Watson, Kapo in the Spirit, c. 1966. Pen and ink on paper. 12" x 14". Collection: Mr. & Mrs. Wycliffe Bennett.
By Peter Nazareth
O 1986 Peter Nazareth. This paper was presented at the Conference
of the Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language
Studies, Singapore, June 1986.
A ndrew Salkey's first novel, A Quality of Violence, deals
with the drought in Jamaica in 1900.1 While the novel's
importance was immediately recognized, the same cannot be
said for its nature. For example, Ivan Van Sertima 
praised the novel in his series of broadcasts on Caribbean
writing over the BBC in 1962, three years after it was pub-
lished, but said, 'Of Salkey himself, little may safely be said
at the moment. Narrative is not his strong point and he can-
not command the power and style to carry the burden of
such an ambitious intention and attempt. But his dialogue is
as vital and vigorous as in a good play and his characters
stand out as vividly as the violence. The book as a whole can
almost take the form of a play. Scene after well-constructed
scene move [sic] swiftly to a powerful dramatic crescendo
and the last scene, in the words of one of his critics, is "the
most tremendous theatre".'
What Van Sertima is referring to by 'such an ambitious
intention and attempt' is the response of the people in the
village to the drought. 'In their predicament the people turn
to the one source that seems to offer them some kind of
hope and salvation', he says. 'That source Religion. But
here it is that a dangerous mix-up and perversion occurs. A
confusion and perversion that has to do with a people who
have been forced out of one continent and culture into
another, who have lost in that uprooting the crucial nerve-
centre of their world and soul and are seeking in an empti-
ness and drought-time for new spiritual values and found-
Having outlined the problem, Van Sertima expects Salkey
to deal with it straightforwardly. He expects 'narrative' and
does not pay sufficient attention to the author's use of
drama. He says, 'The literature of the West Indies has so far
been largely a literature of sensation and surfaces.' He seems
to be thinking about Wilson Harris when he goes on to call it
'A literature that has made full use of the peculiar and exotic
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I II I
natural furniture of the region but has seldom ever touched
on or explored the deeper collective psychic experience of its
people. Yet this experience, this unique psychic property and
feature, this strange spirit and genius aprowl in the place can-
not forever be ignored.'
Kenneth Ramchand takes Salkey's novel more seriously.
In his pioneering work, The West Indian Novel and its Back-
ground, he says [1983 p. 129, my emphasis] :
The socio-economic depression of the masses and the 'great
emptiness, somewhere in their life, that gnawing at them and
begging for plenty plenty satisfaction' [p.59] ,underlie Andrew
Salkey's handling of pocomania cultists in A Quality of Vio-
lence . The spectacular elements of drums, rhythms, sac-
rifice, flagellation and spirit possession occur. But Salkey sets
the novel in a period of drought and aridity in the land: this is
the clearest of indications that the author has larger artistic
uses for the frenzied manifestations of the cultists.
The pocomanians find the substance of their lives breaking up
beyond control in the endless drought. Dada Johnson their
leader sees their faith in him collapsing, and the deputy is look-
ing around for the right moment to make a bid for primacy.
These motives operate in the spectacular dance ('the Giant X')
in which the dancers equate their bodies with the land, each
whipping himself in an attempt to banish the barrenness of the
land and that of the earthly body: 'We must lash the devil out
of the land. We must lash good water in to the land.' The rivalry
between Dada and his deputy spurs each man to more and
more incisive self-laceration until both collapse exhausted and
expiring. The Giant X claims both as sacrificial victims. But
the rains do not come.
This fierce vision of human aberration under burning stress,
and the deafness of the gods is placed within a more con-
ventional ordering of experience in the novel. But although
the solid virtues and values of the Marshalls and the Parkins
help to disperse the pessimism in the work, it is Salkey's ex-
ploration, through the sacrificed and suicidal cultists, of the
irrational elements in human existence that makes the work
such a powerful one.
Through the phrase I have emphasized we can again see Wil-
son Harris haunting the critic. Ramchand takes Dada John-
son to be the leader of the group while we know that he -
Johnson, that is is a con man. Ramchand also takes the
Marshalls and the Parkinses at face value, overlooking the
fact that the wives quarrel with their husbands so that we
know that the even-temperedness of the husbands is to be
questioned. The phrase 'the irrational elements in human
existence' makes the novel much too broad and overlooks
the quite specific crisis within which the characters are try-
ing to find solutions.
Gerald Moore [1969 p. 8] also misses the point when he
says, 'Ma Johnson, the leader of the cult, finally dominates
the action of the novel by her willingness to die, stoned by
her own followers, in order that the kind of power she rep-
resents may live.'
Bill Carr [1968 pp. 102-3] gets closer to understanding
Salkey when he says that when he first read this particular
novel by him, he had one response, but when he re-read it, he
responded differently. Carr is right when he says of A Quality
of Violence that Salkey 'wants his readers to sense for them-
selves the presence of a defining history'. But he begins to go
off the track when he says, 'The book offers little in the way
of character. The protagonists are, rather, disparate points of
view, conflicting figures in a pattern whose design is the form
of the book.' No: there definitely are characters, as we have
seen from the critics quoted earlier. But Carr is onto some-
thing when he thinks of the design of the book: he has al-
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most got it when he says the novel is 'choreographed' and
that it has a 'complex irony'.
Andrew Salkey himself provides us with clues as to how
to read. In his author's note to Anancy's Score [1973; my
emphasis], he says:
Where would Afro-Caribbean folk tales be without the seminal
support of the African Anancy? Indeed, how could this book
ever have been written without it,or without Anancy's historic-
al authority, or without my having tapped Anancy's score in
his first home country?
The traditional Anancy is a crisp, cool calculating spider, a
persuasive, inventive, anarchic spider-man.
I have wilfully used his name, and even more wilfully tried to
understand his nature, and remoulded it for my own ends.
I have plucked my Anancy from the great folk tales of West
Africa and the Caribbean, and I have made him inhabit both
worlds, the old and the new, locked deep in my own imagin-
ation; he also inhabits the ready minds of children, and crashes
the defences of most adults. He holds no reservations; makes
only certain crucial allowances; he knows no boundaries; res-
pects no one, not even himself, at times; and he makes a mock-
ery of everybody's assumptions and value judgements.
In this personal collection, the language and plots are mine;
and the twists, turns and flights of invention are also mine.
The journey and the critical eye are yours.
In this note, Salkey is telling us two things of great im-
portance. First, he is drawing our attention to the Anan-
cy story, the Anancy way of reading. Anancy is a trickster:
one function of the Anancy story is to bring buried contra-
dictions to the surface. [Giles 1975 p. 41]. In A Quality of
Violence, as in his other novels, Salkey deliberately draws
our attention to the Anancy story [see Nazareth 1986]. The
following are random examples from the novel:
Before Linda would go peacefully to her cot, her mother had
to tell her an Anancy story . 'You know, Linda, I despair-
ing plenty of your treatment of the word of the Lord. Every-
thing you think of have some connexion with the fool-fool
spider, Anancy. I want you to understand that Anancy and the
Lord who is God son is two different people, entirely. The
Lord is no Anancy story. I want you to understand the serious
thing that the Lord is.' [pp. 13 -14] .
[Brother Parkin] remained with the girls for about ten minutes.
They laughed and chatted freely with one another. They liked
him and they adored his stories about Anancy and Brother
Tacuma and the jokes and Duppy stories he told ... .[p.79].
Brother Parkin was a spider called Anancy, thought Linda.
So Salkey is letting us know that his novel is an Anancy
story. The second thing of importance is his address to the
reader: 'The journey and the critical eye are yours.' The prob-
lem is not only out there: it is also inside, inside the mind.
Colonial rule took away the centre of control and placed it
somewhere else, far out of reach, or so it would seem. Sal-
key makes reference, appropriate to the fate of a Caribbean
island, buccaneers, and pirates' buried treasure, to having to
dive deep to find that centre: in his introduction to Break-
light , he says, 'A truly sensitive and compassionate
awareness of people, place and history in our spiritually-
fragmented Caribbean, is a very difficult level of conscious-
ness for most of us to achieve; it almost seems a treasure, set
securely in our midst yet utterly out of our reach'. He
continues, 'Surely, our poets may be the first to discover
how to identify, anew, that awareness, and give it back to
us.' In A Quality of Violence, the novelist says, 'Marshall
knew hidden meanings in the Bible stories he read from
time to time and he was anxious to see what new twist the
meeting-yard might give to them.' [p.49] .
A Quality of Violence was published in 1959, when the
Third World seemed to be rising up to throw off the shack-
les of colonialism. Yet less than three decades later, with star-
ving people and military coups and assassinations and corrupt
leaders, it is clear that we only had the illusion of throwing
off the chains. The chains were also in the mind. Salkey
knew the battle would be long. As an epigraph to his George-
town Journal , he quotes Elsa V. Goveia:
Whether in education or in history, good intentions are not
enough, and the road to hell is paved with authoritative half-
truths. No one is ever educated or liberated from the Dast by
being taught how easy it is to substitute new shibboleths for
Salkey wants to wake his readers up by refusing to let
them have any cliched perceptions of the world for these
perceptions come fundamentally from colonialism. Let me
rephrase that: he does let them have the cliched perceptions
of the world, their world, and then he undermines those per-
ceptions so that the readers are forced to think. As Martin
Luther King says of Socrates in his classic "Letter From a
Birmingham Jail", Salkey finds it necessary to create a ten-
sion in the mind so that individuals may rise from the bon-
dage of myths and half-truths. [1981 p.294].
The people Salkey is dealing with in A Quality of Vio-
lence are chiefly the peasants of St Thomas in Jamaica. The
drought causes serious problems for everyone. When Miss
T comes to complain to the Marshalls about how their little
girl mistreated her little girl, she says:
We is all in the same boat. We is all living on the land, and we
is all tie-up with the land. When things like drought and earth-
quake happen, it make we know that we is all on the same
level. The land is the thing that make we one class-a-people.
Another thing that you Marshall people had better remember
is that we is all next-door relative to slavery that just leave
the land yesterday. If we have one class, that one class is to
be call the slave class or something like that. [p.91] .
The suffering of the people, the relationship to the land,
are all well presented and we are made to sympathise with
the people. Yet we know from the earlier section that the
Marshall couple, who are thinking of dealing with the un-
ending drought by going away to a better life, perhaps to
Haiti, do not in fact think of themselves as better than the
other peasants. What we see in the speech by Miss T is
transference the transference of frustration onto an ob-
ject that is nearby. This is a serious problem. Salkey warns
us to pay careful attention to transference in the short,
dramatic prologue which sets the scene sharply before us:
When the drought comes to the land, it comes like a carrion-
crow, circling at first, circling slowly and far above the water
on the land; then it descends frantically to an angle, diving for
bounty which it never earned.
Naturally, the carrion-crow can smell the dying land from a dis-
tance and hasten its death; and, when the land is dying, those
whose lives are nearest to it smell of death also, and, being con-
taminated, resent it.
Salkey starts out naming a drought that actually took
place, then uses a simile, 'like a carrion-crow', and then turns
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it into a concrete metaphor: drought is a carrion-crow. In the
third paragraph, we see that the desperate people 'pray in
their own way, make bargains with the carrion-crow, and,
after a while, begin to look and act as if they, too, were at an
angle, diving towards the land with their claws bared'. The
last two paragraphs are crisp:
The drought brings a touch of madness to the land, a kind of
rebellion, and a quality of compelling suicide which Calvary
Drought first began on Calvary.
By now, we know the drought has become something else.'
In fact, the middle paragraph had warned us: 'Then, the land
becomes a mirror!' Imagine the prologue being read over the
radio. It would work very well: the paragraphs are short and,
dramatic and evoke pictures before our imagination. And
yet, thanks to their brevity, they are mysterious, if we stop
to think. After the reference to the mirror comes the longest
paragraph, entirely metaphorical:
No man ought to feel the desire to look at it. No man ought to
search for his reflexion in it, because if he did he would only
end by resenting what he saw; and by discovering his awkward
image, and so discovering his loneliness, he would hold the
mirror high above his head, fling it from himself in disgust,
and smash it on some unsuspecting rock.
The word reflexionn' is spelled with an 'x': it means both
the mirror image and the reflex action to smash the mirror
because the man does not like what he sees. The scene has
its echoes of Moses smashing the Ten Commandments be-
cause he did not like what he saw, and the biblical reference
becomes important later. More important now is to ask
where Caribbean or colonial man's reflex action comes
from since colonialism was also an attack on the mind. And
so we are told that those whose lives are nearest to the carrion
crow the drought sometimes resent it 'with a blind,
In his prologue, Salkey is doing an Anancy on us: giving
us a tricky story which we misread if we take it 'straight'. We
are being forewarned. And once the story starts, it has twists
and turns that leave us going one way while it goes another.
Mr. Marshall, a small planter, has decided to leave the area
but he is not sure whether it is wise to go to Haiti. His wife is
not keen on leaving. He decides to ask Brother Parkin for
advice. Brother Parkin is a small planter and a usurer. He is
also thought of as a man of ideas. His cousin Biddy, who does
his accounts, thinks of him as a usurer with a soft heart and a
very hard head. Brother Parkin thinks there is nothing wrong
with going to Haiti because at least there is no drought there.
His wife disagrees vociferously because she says Haiti is the
land of duppy and voodoo. Parkin rather fancies his even-
temperedness and fine reading. But his wife does not always
agree with him and now they have a loud quarrel over
whether the Marshalls should go to Haiti or not.
So Brother Parkin takes Marshall along to see Dada John-
son, a healer. Parkin knows that Johnson is a con man who is
thriving on the problems and psychic needs of the community.
(He even 'cures' the problems of some of the women in the
community through sex with them.) But Johnson presents a
case for himself as a person who is actually doing good to the
community. He shows Brother Parkin some letters:
Well, this one is from a man who used to go to the hospital for
a sore on his back which he had for over three years. It just
wouldn't heal and the doctors try all sorts of things on it. In
the long run, he start to get poorly and he lose a lot of weight
and look like death self. He come to me, one day when I was
holding meeting in the yard, and ask for treatment.So I say yes.
And we arrange some 'dues'. The wife and me give the man
some bush baths over two weeks' period and the man begin to
get well like magic take him. The sore dry up more and more.
The herbs and bush in the baths start to take effec' and the man
start to get flesh all over. In a month from the time he come to
see me, he fix up nice as ninepence, ole man. He was so happy
in him mind that he write me this letter thanking me for what I
do for him. He enclose a whole heap of money as an extra'dues'
which I didn't even ask for. In the letter he tell me how I am a
doctor that should get Government help to establish a Poor
Hospital in St. Thomas and that I should have plenty places
name after me. He say that he give the name of Johnson to his
son who have a name already and if he have a girl pickney he
going to name her after my wife. [pp. 40 -41].
At this point, we believe him and we almost forget that he
is a con man. His assistant is a con man too. The two of them
go through a complex game of flagellation to exorcise the
spirits of the suffering people. The ritual is supposed to bring
rain. Marshall protests to Brother Parkin, 'Them look like
them going to murder each other, out there! You can't see
that, man? Is blind you blind or what?' [p. 58] Brother Parkin
refuses to stop it because he does not think they are in trouble.
He warns Marshall to stay out of it: 'You see all these people
here! Every man and woman expect to see this thing. They
live on it like bread and what is more if they don't get it DadL.
Johnson in real trouble.' We tend to believe Brother Parkin.
After all, he reads, he knows the community, so he must know
what he is talking about. Furthermore, three pages earlier, we
had seen the thoughts of Dada Johnson through the imper-
sonal author. He knew his assistant was rising up to challenge
Yet, Dada Johnson was not worried. He would always be the
master of the meeting-yard. His worshippers hnew him well, and
he was aware of the authority he held over them and their lives.
His strength, he knew, lay in the personal relationship he had
fostered in the days when he was starting the meeting-yard -
the private commissions he had undertaken without payment,
the family secrets he held, the intimate knowledge of family
histories he shared, and of course his own indomitable self-
assurance. He merely smiled as he watched his deputy fighting
for a place he would never be able to have. He smiled and he
became more certain that usurpation of his position would
never be one of his worries; if his deputy, he thought, were an
older man, he might be worried, might even be willing to lay
traps for him, or on the other hand, just simply dismiss him
from service in the meeting-yard. His smile became a wide grin
as he followed the words of the deputy who was still standing
on the table and proclaiming his position as the second-in-com-
mand. [p. 55, my emphasis].
From the words I have emphasized, which we read quickly
and responded to, without thinking about them, we believe
that Dada Johnson is very sure of himself. Our feeling is con-
firmed by the experienced Brother Parkin and we doubt the
inexperienced Marshall when he tells Parkin after the 'fight'
that they should go because he is sure the two men are dead.
Parkin says, 'Don't tell me that you want to go before the
resurrection. I wouldn't believe you, at all.' [p. 61]. A few
short paragraphs later, it turns out that both men are dead. We
are stunned. How did it happen that Brother Parkin was
wrong? That Dada's assurance was wrong? How did we believe
that nothing would go wrong? The answer is partially contain-
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self-assurance of Dada Johnson. We did not realize that he had
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conned himself. There was no Resurrection. The biblical
reference is deliberate and so is the frustration of expectations.
Calvary is mentioned in the prologue, but this is a Calvary
without resolution for nothing comes out of the suffering and
sacrifice: the sacrifice is only play-acting, but worse because
the players themselves get carried away.
The theme is repeated on other planes. The children hear
about the double sacrifice and they play a game in which
Dada Johnson has now become a Christ-figure. Doris, Marion
and Linda have formed a secret society. Brother Parkin comes
across the three when they have gone through secret rituals.
Marion tells him that Linda believes that 'Missa Dada Johnson
look like him is Massa Gawd Son'. When he says that that is
all wrong, Doris replies, 'But, plenty people in St. Thomas
don't think so, though . . They think like how Linda and
me think. And so much people can't be wrong, you know
Brother Parkin.' [pp. 80 81]. Linda explains, 'I don't
think that a man like Missa Dada could ever dishonest at all.
Too much people follow him and did love him. He dead. I
know that. But he dead like the good death that Massa Gawd
Son did dead on the cross. I know that and a whole-heap-a
people know that, too. And I have a rosary that I find, that
tell me so. Him too good. Him two hands stretch out and
drip-drip a-blood running down his head side.' Brother Parkin,
who knew Johnson was a con man, now sees the mythifying
process at work. Doris says, 'Brother Parkin! We find out a
way to fix the drought, you know. We going to fix it good.
You wait and see if we don't fix it.' [p. 82]. Linda gets mad
that Doris is giving away their secrets and calls her a Judas.
They begin a bloody fight and are separated by Parkin. All
this happens under the Banyan tree, which seems to have
That evening, Miss T, Doris's mother, comes to the house
of the Marshalls to fight with them over the way their daughter
Linda mistreated her daughter. She has a transference of her
anger, as we saw earlier. Someone comes to say that Doris is
ill. Now Miss T blames the Marshalls and their daughter. Par-
kin tries to calm her down but she fights with Mrs. Marshall.
Mrs Johnson now takes over her dead husband's role and
begins to treat Doris. She says the mother should not seek the
help of the doctor; she causes blame to be placed first on the
Marshalls and then on Brother Parkin. Parkin's Good Samari-
tan attempt to separate the fighting girls is now described as
sinister. Three men high on ganja go to fetch him; he is brought
back in the style of Christ, beaten up, bare-chested. Like
Christ, he is unable to answer his accusers and torturers. Just
when we think he is going to be killed, and we are angry with
the cruel Mrs Johnson, things turn around. Doris dies, the
blame is put on Mrs Johnson, and the group turns on her.
Soon, our relief that Brother Parkin is not going to be sac-
rificed after all turns to shock when we realize that the
crowd is going to get Mrs Johnson. We were sympathetic with
Parkin when he tried to open the eyes of the crowd:
Listen, everybody I All this woman is doing is quite clear to me.
She's trying to take her husband's place. She's using Doris's ill-
ness as a platform. That's all, believe me! She's seeking power
which she'll use to imprison you the way Dada used to do. I
know her only too well She's nothing but a trickster who's on
to a good thing, which she knows will keep her in money and
good living as long as she can hold up the pretence of being a
true and inspired healer. She's a common obeah woman Black
magic and a lot of nastiness are the things that she thinks im-
portant. And she'll do more than that She'll blackmail you
without thinking twice about it. [p. 131] .
We wanted the crowd to listen to Brother Parkin. We
believed that Mrs Johnson was evil and we wanted her curbed.
Yet when the crowd turns against her, we are alarmed. Miss
Gatha now converts Parkin's suffering into a sacrifice which
will bear fruit. Mrs Johnson is now led in a march with the
people who are going 'to some destination not really under-
stood by anybody'. Parkin sends Miss Gatha to fetch Marshall
to stop the crowd. Then follows a parody of Calvary:
The three addicts knelt before Mother Johnson and begged: 'Do
something, now, Mother. Do something now, nuh.'
The leader was silent. The others continued: 'You naked you
know that, Mother? Yu' clothes gone, same sol Put them on
again and make we see. Beg you, love. Put them on and make
we see, nuhl' [p. 181] .
Parkin tells the crowd that it is heading for murder and
appeals to them to think of what lies ahead. The response is,
'So you think you above we, Brother Parkin? You think you
cut on a different bias, eh, King Solomon Parkin?' [p. 193].
The leader of the pack turns to colour difference. Marshall
arrives and gives it his best shot. Parkin takes over. Just when
we think they are succeeding, Mother Johnson gets into the
act: 'You think that you, Parkin, really can save anybody?
You think that you are like Dada Johnson? Is who playing
God, now? Who?' She refuses to keep quiet. 'You think that
you and your wholesale mercy can get things on the right
side, eh?' she says. She refers to her husband and mythifies
him: 'Dada dead but him live in me. Him is here right now
with me and him laughing after you.' Echoing what Linda
had said about Doris, she calls the people 'Judas people'. She
calls on them to kill her, to 'Stone me like the Bible say'. So
they do. The last sentence of the chapter is one of hope:
'Then, for the first time that night, she relaxed, and waited'.
But the hope held out in that sentence is false. The brief,
dramatic epilogue denies us any solution or resolution. The
first paragraph reads, 'The drought continued for a long
time.' The second one, 'Rain threatened, but that was all.'
The third tells us, 'The procession and the others drifted
apart. Some moved to other parts of St Thomas-in-the-East,
some to other parishes, some nearer the coast, and some to
other islands. The Marshalls went to Haiti.' Structurally, the
novel is down-playing the departure of the Marshalls: it is a
failure. And the novel ends cynically: 'Yet, for those who re-
mained in St Thomas-in-the-East, there was something else
to which they could look forward. They had the Great Earth-
quake of 1907 which somehow would make them forget the
Compare the conclusion of A Quality of Violence to that of
Ngugi wa Thiong'o's The River Between. In both cases the
people have sacrificed a person they had followed only just
before: but in Ngugi's case, the person is a martyr whereas in
Salkey's the sacrifice is meaningless and worse times follow.
Wilson Harris comments on this meaninglessness in "The
Writer and Society" [1967 pp 24-25] :
Sacrifice for whom and for what? That is the question. It is the
rigidity that appeals, one that masks every concept of sacrifice,
and may spring from the death-dealing sanction of tradition, yes,
but which defeats the very object and mystery of all capacity in
the end, in that it makes of the spontaneity of living sacrifice
something already 'given' (rather than something belonging to
unpredictable experience), something which loses its 'negative'
film or state of possibility.
It is as if the negative film or suspension of the ground of reality
was never a series of creative distinctions at all, but a cunning
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fiction, a hardened process in itself, incapable of genuine or
free expression and development.
Andrew Salkey in his novel A Quality of Violence touches on
this theme of the ultimate meaninglessness of sacrifice in a re-
markable way. The religious one who is stoned to death and
it is upon this the novel closes suffers the lack of all meaning,
the triumph of all meaninglessness. A far cry from Saul's Stephen
for whom the heavens shower grace. For here in A Quality
of Violence is the enforced multiplication of sacrifice for its
own sake which one finds in the derisive breath of the contem-
porary theatre, lonesco, Beckett, Pinter and others.
Yet Harris, like the critics we saw earlier, has also missed
the point. It is not just sacrifice that is at stake. It is the way
people fall into ritual patterns and find a sacrificial logic
where there is actually no meaning, either in the preconceived
act or in its consequences. Brother Parkin is beaten up for
nothing. His suffering leads nowhere: he is not even able to
stop the crowd from killing Mother Johnson. Mother Johnson
gets caught up in the ritual pattern and follows through to the
end, having totally forgotten the original problem, which is
how to end the drought. Things were triggered off by a con-
man and his assistant who got involved in a fake ritual to fool
the crowd but who got carried away by the ritual and killed
each other. At the same time, the reader's expectations are
frustrated because the language invisibly contains, and im-
poses, a pattern.
In Ishmael Reed's Flight to Canada, three slaves have es-
caped while the fourth one, Uncle Robin, stays on with Massa
Swille, the slaveowner who is also a multinational. One of the
slaves, Stray Leechfield, is earning money through various
schemes such as taking part in pornographic photos, planning
to buy his freedom with the money. He refuses to believe
Raven Quickshill, another of the escaped slaves, that Swille
does not want his money, he wants him. Swille considers
Leechfield to be his property and he sends his slave-catchers
after him. Leechfield is caught and brought back: to find
Swille dead and Robin now in charge of the estate. Robin
pays the slave-catchers and frees Leechfield, saying, 'Did you
think you could just hand history a simple check, that you
could short-change history, and history would let you off as
simple as that? You've insulted history, Leechfield.' [Reid
1976 p. 177; See also Nazareth 1984]. Margaret Atwood
[1984 p. 149 my emphasis] says, 'The problem facing all
of us writers, insofar as we are concerned with this area of
our experience is: how to describe the Monster in all its
forms, including those in our heads accurately and with-
out being defeatist?'
The people in Salkey's novel are always referring to his-
tory. They are chiefly black people who come out of slavery
and remember those times. They particularly remember the
neglected Africa. Yet this is not enough for colonial history
is in their heads. The scheme by the colonial rulers to destroy
local culture and supplant it with an imposed, colonial ver-
sion of the culture of the mother country was largely success-
ful. It was most successful in the implantation of ritualistic
patterns from outside, chiefly the Christian ones. Mother
Johnson follows through with the Christian pattern: she
demands that she be stoned to complete the pattern. The
problem is the inability to think and break out of the im-
posed pattern. Hence the drought becomes a metaphor for
something much larger: Mother Johnson 'was the target, the
link between Dada Johnson and the people in the drought,
the drought of their faith in the land, and the drought of
rational action.' (p.160) This, I keep stressing is also a
problem for the reader: Salkey sees the reader as part of the
problem. There are chains on the reader's mind: Salkey
knows these chains have to be broken or the reader will
refuse to see. Salkey wrote to me that there is a saying in
Jamaica, 'Those who won't see can't see.' So he lets the
reader deceive himself and then forces him to look back to
find out where he went wrong. This is a technique Salkey
uses more extensively in his other novels, particularly in The
Adventures of Catullus Kelly. Margaret Atwood's statement
might be extended to read, how do we remove the monster
from our heads?
One of the problems is that no matter what the writer
does, critics who are trained in the European tradition think
they are approaching literature objectively whereas their
minds are conditioned to ritual patterns too. This is not to
say that the critic cannot understand Salkey: it means that
Salkey has to keep playing tricks to break through the bar-
rier. Of course Anancy will not reveal his tricks. When I
asked Salkey a question about Come Home, Malcolm Heart-
land, he wrote, 'Can't help you, I'm afraid! Those books of
mine, the ones you are considering, indeed all my books, are
done fictions, really forgotten stories, which I can no longer
see clearly or remember point for point, or argue cases for;
it's up to the critic to bring them alive, again .... Let the
1. Andrew Salkey, A Quality of Violence, London/New Beacon,
1978; first published by Hutchinson in 1959. All page references
are from the New Beacon edition. My paper is based on a book
which I am writing for Southern Illinois University Press ten-
tatively titled "The Novelist as Trickster: The Fiction of Andrew
Salkey, Francis Ebejer and Ishmael Reed".
2. Letter from Andrew Salkey dated 25 July 1984.
ATWOOD, Margaret, Second Words, Boston: Beacon Press,1984.
CARR, Bill, "A Complex Fate" in Louis James (ed.) The Islands In-
Between, OUP 1968.
GILKES, Michael, Wilson Harris and the Caribbean Novel, London:
HARRIS, Wilson, Tradition, the Writer and Society, London/Port of
Spain: New Beacon Books, 1967.
KING, Martin Luther, "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" in Frederick
Crews (ed.), The Random House Reader, New York: Random
MOORE, Gerald, The Chosen Tongue, New York: J and J Harper,
NAZARETH, Peter, "Heading Them Off at the Pass; The Fiction of
Ishmael Reed", The Review of Contemporary Fiction, 4:2,
"Sexual Fantasies and Neo-colonial Repression in Andrew
Salkey's The Adventures of Catullus Kelly", paper presented to
the 12th Annual Meeting of the African Literature Association,
Michigan State University, East Lansing, 16-19 April, 1986.
RAMCHAND, Kenneth, The West Indian Novel and its Background,
2nd. ed., London: Heinemann, 1983.
REED, Ishmael, Flight to Canada, New York: Random House, 1976.
SALKEY, Andrew, A Quality of Violence, London: Hutchinson,
1959; New Beacon, 1978.
SGeorgetown Journal, London: New Beacon, 1972.
Breaklight, New York: Doubleday, 1973.
SAnancy's Score, London: Bogle L'Ouverture, 1973.
VAN SERTIMA, Ivan, Caribbean Writers, London: New Beacon,
"The sensibility in-
TAMARIND SEASON is
a woman's intimate,
gentle, shy, painstakingly
honest, acerbic, maniac, mercurial.
This is the important other half, the
perspicacity missing from the
current record of the literature of
the Caribbean." Pamela Mordecai
JAMAICA JOURNAL 1981.
"Lorna Goodison's first collection
of poems TAMARIND SEASON is
full of good things . the poems
are without pose or pretension,
witty, sharply sensuous, con-
versational and casually intimate.
The voice is distinctive, and effort-
lessly Jamaican even when she
seems to be writing in standard
English .... They affirm the value
of talk and love between individuals,
and the dignity of ordinary people
and of private visions."
- Dennis Scott Sunday Gleaner
aica only Post paid
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"One of the most intriguing
collections of Jamaican poems
. .. the book is a mixture of miraculously beautiful
language .... It is full of delights." Dennis Scott -
Sunday Gleaner magazine.
"Anthony McNeill is the first and most accomplished
poet to appear out of the 'now' generation of the
anglophone Caribbean. McNeill's solutions over the
next few years will be one of the major achievements
in our literature." Edward Brathwaite
"Tony McNeill's extraordinary poems are at once ...
deliberately controlled, and inwardly . anarchic.
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in Jamaica only Ced cesC Pt Post paid overseas
Poems by Anthony McNeilou
Poems by Anthony McNeill
Midsummer Delights and Ordeals
By Gloria Escoffery
With a belief in the development of a new
generation of creators and appreciators, we
summon all youth . .He who portrays
directly and without qualification, the crea-
tive impulse, is one of us. die Brucke mani-
I dream of an art that is balanced, pure and
tranquil, without worrying or disquieting sub-
jects, an art that will give the intellectual
worker, the businessman or literary man, a
sense of relief, that will calm his mind, rather
in the way a comfortable armchair relaxes
him when he is physically tired. Matisse;
about the same date.
Kofi Kayiga at the Frame Centre
Here we have statements of two
seemingly contrary esthetics,
one apparently bent on unset-
tling the viewer, the other on tranquili-
sing him. Yet superficially at least, the
works produced by the earnest young
German expressionists of the die Brucke
and der Blaue Reiter schools and their
French contemporaries the Fauves -
represented here by Matisse must
have seemed very similar to contem-
porary viewers. The common features
were, on the negative side, a disdain for
academic naturalism, on the positive, a
free and effervescent use of colour and
line for all the emotional and decorative
value that could be squeezed out of
them. There remained, and remains,
however, a fundamental difference
between them; this relates to what the
artist conceives his function to be.
There is also the matter of how the
viewer perceives the work of art; what
he expects the artist to do for him large-
ly determines how and what he sees.
One thing is certain, the sophisticated
viewer of today will look with eyes
quite different from those which widen-
ed with surprise when faced by the
works produced by the avant garde of
the early twentieth century.
Whither our own internationally
established expressionist Kofi Kayiga,
returning for a brief visit to his home-
Christian and Pagan 1984 Acrylic on paper 18" x 24
Christian and Pagan. 1984. Acrylic on paper. 18"x 24".
land to mount a show of paintings?
Further into the angst we have come to
associate with expressionism although
the joyful rather than the harsh side
seems to be stressed in the manifesto
quoted above? Or is he moving towards
the more classical fauvist ideal of balance
and harmony? Should we regard those
hallowed and fundamental categories as
anachronistic today, and to some ex-
tent irrelevant? For surely it is not
possible for any artist practising in the
fourth quarter of the twentieth century
to remain immune to the infection of
eclecticism and its concomitant irony,
which sees all styles as no more than
samples in a pattern book from which
he is free to choose according to his
When I entered the salon of the Frame
Centre where Kayiga's works were hang-
ing, it took me some time to recover
from the delight and excitement caused
by the explosion of colour that met my
eyes. As I gave my undivided attention
to each one of the twenty-eight works
with its individual charge of energy, I
realized that this was no ragbag experi-
ence; those brilliantly hued, acrylic
washes, alternating with patches of
broken colour and/or areas of less
intensity, orchestrated by means of an
ever present personal calligraphy, did
not add up merely to attractive patterns,
like well designed carpets. Individually
and taken as a whole they were saying
something about the human spirit.
Kayiga had laconically titled the show
"Statements". I prefer to think of the
works as riddles; they functioned in the
way poetry does, challenging the person
at the receiving end to look beyond and
behind for the answers. There was evi-
dence of an extraordinary consistency
of vision, but within chosen limits, one
could discover not only sequential links
and analogies but instances of antith-
esis, or a restless exploration of new
modes of seeing, new assaults on the
sensible, material world.
How strangely serene and classical
the large composition Songs of the
Light appeared, (next to its smaller
neighbour Jazzy) in which coloured
Flower Force. 1983. Mixed media on canvas. 25 "x 32".
shapes seemed to float fortuitously
before a darker background. The in-
clusion of the definite article 'the' in
the title hinted at symbolic associations
and conveyedan undertone of mysticism.
Superbly composed, Songs might, how-
ever, find its spiritual home among those
sober and serene still life compositions
of Braque in which the motifs of cubism
were used in that spirit of rational
classicism so dear to the French. I found
myself returning again and again to this
work between bouts with the more tur-
Kofi Kayiga has, of course, built his
reputation on a pursuit of themes and
images derived from his African roots.
His very name, which literally translated
means 'born on Friday hunter', is an
African one appropriated by him when
he discarded his Jamaican baptismal
name to claim his African heritage. He
has in recent years been involved in the
academic side of the Afro-American
movement for reassessment of this heri-
tage; currently employed in programmes
sponsored by the Museum of the
National Center of Afro-American
Artists in Boston. In addition to being
a Professor of Art at the Massachusetts
Caurching. 1983. Acrylic on canvas. 32%"x 27%".
College of Art, he is a resident of the
African-American Master Artists in Resi-
dence Program at Northeastern Univer-
sity. As one would expect, there are
several canvases in this show that re-
flect these preoccupations, the most
forceful perhaps being Christian and
Pagan, reproduced in colour for the
African rituals of propitiation appear
to be the theme of a series of works, in-
cluding A Dancing, Iron Dance and the
three mask paintings. The Blazing Jungle
Songs of the Light. 1985. Mixed media on paper. 40"x 26".
takes up the theme of mysterious forces
emerging from a dark world as indeed
does Jazzy in terms of the Afro-American
experience. Looking at The Blazing
Jungle I was reminded of those hundreds
of watching eyes in the jungle depicted
in Conrad's Heart of Darkness.
Kayiga makes us aware of the way
each culture with its own strong thrust
to express its values through ritual and
symbol impinges on others equally vital.
This comes out in his Christian and
Pagan where the dancing crosses, set
against a gold background at the top of
the composition, jaggedly interact with
the masked figure below. The mask is
part of an animistic ritual which seems
to express identification of the human
being with the totality of nature. In
Flower Mask it is at first difficult to dis-
tinguish the persona of the mask from
the floral background. The stresses and
strains caused by the. interaction of
values come out strongly in another
composition, Invasion of Carnival, in
which this layered effect operates. Here
the action is at the top where the crowd
seems to be carried along by its own im-
petus as the 'native' population takes
over a Christian festival and imbues it
with feelings and energy derived from
its own suppressed cultural heritage.
Religion has a quieter, more intro-
spective side. This is demonstrated in
two interesting works in which pagan
and christian elements seem, likewise,
to mingle. In Churching there are iden-
tifiable fragments of christian icono-
graphy, notably the zone of yellow
(another reflection of the medieval artis-
tic tradition) which is reserved for the
topmost zone of the conical 'spire' so
that it functions as a beacon of hope.
Perhaps too the three upward pointing
fingers in the irregular skyline refer to
the three crosses on Golgotha as my com-
panion at the show suggested, but this
is a moot point. We must not look here
for the reassuring verticals and aspiring
steeples of European architecture. These
holy places of Kayiga's seem to cling to
the ground like African huts. In Sacred
Place the upper curve of the building is
more marked; it becomes an arc beneath
which the 'church' seems to crouch, a
private place of sanctity separated from
the pearly sky by something rather like
a throbbing aura, or rainbow.
The expressionist artist traditionally
responds to landscape in two ways. He
may regard it generically and exploit it
for its symbolism, as Kayiga seems to do
in Blazing Jungle, or he may transcribe
his personal, emotional reaction to a
specific landscape. The New Mexico
Experience depicts a landscape which
must have impressed him by itsgrandeur,
harshness and impersonality. Beyond a
pair of columns the panorama of a
ranch opens outward in endless vistas.
A band of blue at the top of the com-
position suggests less a naturalistic sky
than the emotion evoked by an implac-
able presence; a god which appears to
man in the form of a sky, giving or with-
holding rain at will. How domestic by
contrast is Kayiga's small and cunning-
ly narrow, vertical Red Hills View. The
main zone of interest here is not the dis-
Bird crisis. 1983. Mixed media on canvas. A Bathing. 1983. Mixed media on canvas.
33"x 23%". 34"x 25".
Insect Force. 1983. Mixed media on canvas. 32%"x 25".
tant hills but the foreground bank of
flowers, painted with an almost im-
pressionist technique, and squeezed in
between tall black iron railings.
Apart from perfunctory appear-
ance as personae in ritual enactments,
human beings apparently hold little
interest for the artist. A surprising ex-
ception is the humorous, affectionately
described, lady (?) in Bathing, who
might almost have sprung from the
brush of Milton George.
The scarcity of individual human
beings is made up for by a menagerie of
insect and bird beings. Like people,
these seem to pursue a variety of mys-
terious, private ends with a drive that
makes them impervious to the frus-
trating obstacles in their environment.
Insect Force gives what may be described
as an Anansi eye view of the universe.
Confident of the instinctive power resi-
ding in that red centre of his anatomy,
this creature appears not to notice the
foliage that crowds in on him or the lit-
tle patch of blue firmament exposed to
view. Expressive, black, broken, calli-
graphic strokes indicating legs and dis-
connected bits of web by their very
strength and purposefulness suggest that
Anansi like Robert the Bruce's spider
- will somehow manage to complete his
task and fulfil his destiny.
Kindred spirit within the order of
what we call Nature is Kayiga's Strange
Being, an ant-like creature with what
looks like a hole in his solar plexus who
hangs midway between darkness and
light. Comic or tragic or frightening -
according to the eye of the beholder,
he/she/it seems quite helpless and, merci-
fully, devoid of that ruthless efficiency
we associate with creatures from outer
In this series of parables from nature
or poetic forays into the metaphysics of
biology, considerable wit is involved.
My favourite creature is the owl in Bird
Crisis. The dilemma of the bird's place-
ment in a vertical space diagonally
divided into night and day, the quizzical
angle of its head, the worry lines around
its eyes, add up to a very effective meta-
phor for human anxiety.
Which comes first, the chicken or the
egg? This is the age-old riddle that
comes to mind as one studies two small
canvases titled Kissing Cosmos and
Expanding Ovals in which Kayiga ex-
plores the potential of the egg as universe
and as fertility symbol. Viewing the first
I was reminded, oddly, of the sense of
identity and paradoxical communion
and loneliness of souls conveyed by the
metaphysical poet John Donne, when
he writes of human love.
We then, who are this new soul,
Of what we are composed and made,
For, th' atomies of which we grow,
Are souls, whom no change can invade.
In Expanding Ovals reproduction is the
name of the game. The chicken-to-be,
housed as embryo in the egg, is suggest-
ed by a pair of stilt-like chicken feet de-
tached from the second oval.
From egg to seed is a short imagin-
ative distance. Spaced shows an order-
ly progression as something looking like
a castor oil seed grows larger and forces
an exit from one stage of existence to
another; this is graphically illustrated
by a break through in successive colour
Kayiga's view of process in nature is
fully in harmony with the die Brucke
emphasis on 'creative impulse'. This
ideal is beautifully realized in his Flower
Force, a centrifugal composition which
reminded me of those slow motion
camera sequences in which a flower is
shown first as a bud then opening its
petals until, fully blown, it explodes in
air. In Childlife, Kayiga provides the
completely abstract equivalent for the
inner dynamic of human creativeness.
Combining wedges of luminous colour
separated by border lines with a larger
swatch of playful interaction, he stresses
the old, white centre where they meet.
This is the point where, by means of
cultivated technique acting on native
sensibility, the mature artist shares with
the child of grace. How refreshing it is
to view the works of an artist who man-
ages to 'get it all together' instead of
merely 'letting it all hang out'.
It is impossible for the artist today to
assume the role of shaman. He operates
within a society in which art is bought
and sold in art galleries catering to the
tastes of a particular clientele. He must
please his patrons or perish. This is not
intended to belittle the achievement of
Kayiga, whose works will certainly be
received as pleasing within the relative-
ly sophisticated ambience of galleries
like the Frame Centre. In addition to
giving immediate pleasure, what he suc-
ceeds in doing is teasing and stimulating
the imagination, no small achievement
in a materialistic society such as ours.
Festival Art at the Peter
To traverse the distance between
Kofi Kayiga uptown and the 1986 Festi-
val show of paintings, sculpture and ce-
ramics downtown was indeed to take a
giant imaginative step; I hesitate to say
whether forward or backward in view of
the many historical and cultural factors
involved. Leaving the noonday sun to its
own devices on Harbour Street and step-
ping into the lower level cave of the gal-
lery, meant almost literally taking a leap
in the dark. In the pervasive gloom one
simply could not see the works prop-
erly, even when one's eyes became
adapted to the indoor lighting. This was
partly because the space was inadequate
for the number of exhibits, so that ap-
parently quite charming little pictures
were skyed or tucked into inaccessible
corners. The artificial lighting along the
walls reached neither the small pictures
above nor the larger ones below at eye
level. The numerous sculptures in a
variety of media and one could not
but be struck by the adventurous if not
always successful experimentalism of
the sculptors had to compete with the
dominant pattern of the floor tiles.
Many of the identification labels were
missing or placed out of sight. One ag-
gressive looking nude lady made of what
I thought was wood, but I believe was
cement, could only be identified if one
were sufficiently athletic to crawl on
Five days after the show opened there
was no catalogue; a simple duplicated
list of exhibits and exhibitors would
have served, and a few biographical
notes would have been so helpful. In
this melee it was impossible to distin-
guish professionals, or at any rate those
who had already succeeded in having
their works mounted in the annual shows
Marshall, Self Portrait. Pencil on paper.
Owen Jolly, Neene. Oil on canvas.
26" x 23%'".
I ^-f. af^Ht ^k ..
Courtney Morgan, Religious Marcn. Lil on
canvas. 22" x 31".
Webster Campbell, Flood Victim. Oil on
canvas. 41%"x 30%':
Angela Staples, Sunday Afternoon. Acrylic on canvas. 35%" x 45".
at the National Gallery, from talented -
or untalented amateurs who hadn't,
young beginners branching out on their
own from art school students. Obviously
there was a lot of art school production
on view; one would have liked to have
some clue as to the age of the exhibi-
tors. Perhaps the democratic ideal is to
present everything as if it exists on the
same level of sophistication and must
be judged objectively for its esthetic
merit, but let us be honest and admit
that it doesn't and isn't. The accredited
intuitives, for instance, are not begin-
ners. Perhaps what needs to be done is
exclude, or show separately, entries by
those who have shown at the National
Gallery previously; or come up with
some other way of sectionalising the en-
tries. At least the sculpture and ce-
ramics need to be shown separately and
elsewhere. Could the Festival Com-
mission not go back to the Jamaican
tradition of renting school audi-
toriums so that the public may be able
to view the works in greater comfort? It
seems that every other Jamaican adult is
avidly carving or painting in his/her
spare time . also taking heed of what
is shown in the galleries and challenging
the recognized artists on their own
ground. There is obviously a great deal
of talent and the exhibitors deserve a
It is not a good beginning for a
reviewer when she sets out to regard
Ancel Walters, School Soon Call. Acrylic on canvas. 17"x 19".
Michael Parchment, Jealous Boy Tony. Oil on hard board. 22% "x 11 '"
with objective and complete interest over
one hundred exhibits by over eighty
exhibitors forgive the vagueness of
my statistics and really cannot make
out the works. I thought I was looking
at the top of a wooden mushroom.
What faced the ceiling at finger tip level
turned out to be the top of a wave. If
one crouched down it was possible to
perceive the figure of a man actively en-
gaged in Serfing (sic). The wayward
spelling on the labels must not be attri-
buted to the organizers, of course, and
is not the main butt of my criticism. I
am sorry to have used so much space to
express my grouse as a reviewer but
there it is. One wonders if the mounting
of art exhibitions really can be a func-
tion of the bureaucracy. The promised
background information never reached
me. Having jettisoned the sculpture and
ceramics as impossible to review, let
me see what can be said about the paint-
ings and drawings.
How far we are here from the sophis-
ticated expressionist ideals demonstrated
at the Kayiga show Mass Jamaica has
no truck with abstract subtleties, though
there are a few works which challenge
the imagination, mainly by artists like
Andrew Jefferson, tutor at the Jamaica
School of Art, who are quite outside the
stream of popular Jamaican culture. On
a national and therefore official occasion
like this, works with grandly thematic
titles like Is This Love?, About Unity,
Serenity, and Eyes Control Freedom
abound. Even football becomes Uni-
versal Football. But let us not be con-
fused by titles. Mostly we are in the
world of not intuitive art, in the way
we understand the term, but the non-
intuitive modes of vision which soothe
and reassure the contemporary Jamai-
can proletarian soul. (By this I make no
reference to sociological classification
by class or economic status; what I
mean is the home-grown, philistine soul
that throbs on, regardless of what goes
on in the commercial galleries uptown.)
These approaches fall mainly into
two categories: gaudy, unselfconscious
pop art that would warm the heart of
collectors no longer able to find speci-
mens in more cosmopolitan milieus, and
down-to-earth, literal transcriptions of
the Jamaican personality and environ-
ment. In either case this reveals a hunger
to see oneself reflected in art; in the
popular mind having one's photograph
taken in the appropriate setting is some-
what confused with going to an art
studio for, presumably the same service.
Jamaicans earnestly desire to set on re-
cord the faces they see, the cultivations
they labour in and love, their homes,
their churches, markets and streets,
their tourist resort highlights including
such sources of pride as Hope Gardens
and Reach waterfall, but also familiar
landmarks such as the Bog Walk pump-
ing station, which pay some sort of tri-
bute to developing technology. There is
also a distinct school of bourgeois origin,
one suspects, which favours horticul-
ture. Exotics such as the orchid and the
ginger lily, foliage plants which lend
themselves to decorative simplification,
are favourite subjects for study.
Having made these generalisations I
must go on to name names. This is going
to be difficult because, upstairs, where
the light was better and the more
interesting works seemed to have con-
gregated, I saw so many paintings which
were worthy of individual comment.
In the field of portraiture gold medal
award winner Webster Campbell pro-
duced a work titled Flood Victim of
astounding virtuosity if it came from
the hand of a self-taught artist. I parti-
cularly admired the painting of that
huge Caravaggiesque bare foot resting
on its squelched out boot. A moving
work, not merely because it happen-
ed to be topical. He was less success-
ful in tackling the subject of a ghetto
yard, because the foreground lacked
definition and interest. Neck and
neck with Webster Campbell, veteran
Festival prize winner Owen Jolly, work-
ing in the same genre, but with warm-
er colours and a softer handling of the
forms, came up with a tender but un-
sentimental portrait of Nenne or, ac-
cording to the label, Neene. Here the in-
tention may be to rival Barrington
Watson's portrait of his mother [see
Jamaica Journal 18: 1]. I believe these
up-and-coming artists do really study
the works on display at the national
show. Very much in the genre of Judy
MacMillan, and by no means unworthy
successors, are such works as lan Morris's
two portraits in oil; Samuel Philips's
Boy Looking Out, Albert Garel's
Young Fisherman and Everton Mitcher-
ton's Man Fishing, and in the drawing
section, Peter Marshall's perceptive self
portrait. Angela Staples has a style and a
province of her own, specialising in por-
traits of elegant young women reclin-
ing at leisure in the setting of their bed-
rooms. Here she shows two interesting
examples of this genre, which are a
worthy follow-up to the one exhibited
in the last national annual show.
Landscape is a very popular choice.
Perhaps I should simply list the exhibi-
tors so as not to leave out those who of-
fered something interesting to catch the
eye: My favourites were perhaps the
street scenes of Courtney Morgan. He
portrays a world in which events (such
as A Religious March) happen, or dis-
appointingly fail to materialize, as in
Unemployed. Veron Williams of the
Harmony Hall group is there with a
detailed account of life as it proceeds
from day to day in a district of St.
Elizabeth under cultivation. Eleisha
Miller, familiar to me from the annual
shows organized by the Ocho Rios
Library Art Committee, is also pre-
sent with a couple of his homely back-
yard scenes. Moving from the hard
literalism of his Busy Day at the
market, Alfred Williams tries to cap-
ture the heat waves in the fields on
A Warm Day. Charles Donaldson, em-
phasising his point by the inclusion of
headless coconut trees, gives a drama-
tic rendering of Obson's Choice (sic),
a villa glimpsed in the distance from
the viewpoint of a winding road in the
foreground. Novelette Gonzalez offers a
well executed view of Bath Fountain
Storehouse, and is less successful -
without the possibilities of texture
offered in that picture with her
rendering of Hope Gardens. And.so on.
These categories, portraiture and
landscape, are at present where the main
action is, in terms of popular taste and
skill. Of course some who have already
gained recognition, like Gaston Tabois
and Allan Johnson are there too, but
one tends at a show like this to look for
promising newcomers. In the field of
intuitive genre I was struck by a modest,
emotionally true composition titled
School Soon Call, by a newcomer called
Ancel Walters, who may well make his/
her tracks for Harmony Hall. Incidentally
one of the lesser lights of the Harmony
Hall family, Michael Parchment, puts
his pleasant colour sense to good use
here in a narrative composition titled
Jealous Boy Tony. I looked out for
the work of my friend Lawrence Ed-
wards, painter and sculptor, who
usually makes a good showing in these
Festival events. Unfortunately his Last
Supper was placed so high above the
stairwell that I couldn't see it properly
and therefore can make no comment.
It is hard to give a complete and co-
herent account of an exhibition such as
this. I apologise for the shortcomings of
Carolyn Cooper is a lecturer in the
Department of English, University of
the West Indies, Mona. She special-
ises in Caribbean, African and
Afro-American literature. Previous
contributions to Jamaica journal
include "Proverb as Metaphor in the
Poetry of Louise Bennett" (17:2)
and 'That Cunny Jamma Oman', the
Female Sensibility in the Poetry of
Louise Bennett" (18:4). She is a
recipient of the Fullbright Fellow-
Martin Mordecai is a director in the
Office of the Prime Minister. His
poetry has been published in Bim,
Savacou and Caribbean Quarterly.
His most recent publication in
Jamaica journal was the article
"Cinchona: the Nearest Place to
Ann Hodges is an architect with a
particular interest in the conservation
of historic buildings and traditional
technology and has worked on plans
for the conservation of Port Royal
and Spanish Town. She is a consultant
to the Women's Construction Col-
Mervyn Morris is a senior lecturer in
the Department of English, Univer-
sity of the West Indies, Mona. He has
written three books of poetry The
Pond (1973), On Holy Week (1976)
and Shadowboxing (1979). He is a
regular contributor to Jamaica jour-
Peter Nazareth is professor of English
and African-American World Studies,
University of Iowa. He is an advisor
to the International Writing Program-
me and a well known literary critic.
He is currently writing a book entitled
"The Novelist as Trickster: The
Fiction of Andrew Salkey, Francis
Ebejer and Ishmael Reed".
Present building opened in 1912 after repairs to damage done by fire in 1910.
The Mico College
building on Marescaux
Road is a well-known
city landmark, but is not
as old as the college itself
which this year celebrates
its 150th anniversary
and is one of the oldest
institutions in the world.
For the first 60 years
of its existence, Mico was
housed on Hanover
Street in a building which
is now a part of Kingston
Technical High School.
In 1894 a part of the
property known as
Quebec Lodge was
purchased from Mr Lewis
Restored building opened in 1909
Verley and the
foundation stone of the
new Mico building laid
on 4 December by Sir
Henry Blake, Governor
of Jamaica. Two years
later, on 5 February
1896, the new building
was opened and the
college formally moved
to the new premises.
Mr.W. Eloin Sant had
designed the handsome
two-storey structure of
red brick with concrete
facings, laid out in the
shape of an L
approximately 150 feet
in length. At the corner
of the Lwas a Victorian
Gothic tower 65 feet
'I 'I '
Original building completed in 1896
high. A practising school
and two staff cottages
were also erected behind
the main building while
Quebec Lodge, the house
of the previous owner,
was used as the principal's
In the 1907 earthquake
the upper storey of the
main building, the staff
cottages and a part of the
principal's house were
On 21 April 1909 the
restored building was
opened. It was designed
by Mr Ellis Raves and
maintained the style of
the original with the
exception of the
Victorian Gothic tower
which was replaced by
one of simpler style.
Sections of the brick-
work were replaced with
native hardwood and all
the walls reinforced with
steel and concrete.
Since 1909 this building
has been damaged by fire
(1910) and hurricane
(1951) and has undergone
repairs, but the original
design has been
Glimpses of Jamaica's Natural History
A New Lizard Species
Spherodactylus semasiops is one of the 20 species of lizards that are
endemic to Jamaica, that is, they are found nowhere else in the world.
In all, 24 species of lizards are found here. Many are beautiful and all
are useful to man. Theyeat many harmful insects and other invertebrate
Spherodactylus semasiops was first discovered in 1975. It is found in
the forests of the Cockpit Country at elevations between 1100-1800
feet. How many more species are waiting to be discovered in the remote
forests of Jamaica? They are part of our heritage and we should value
and protect them.
Natural Resources Conservation Division